Bad Sugar

I got a 5/10 on the Health Equity Quiz but would have done much worse were it not for some of the classes I took over the last year like epidemiology.  I remember some of the surprising statistics from that course and saw the information resurface in the quiz.  The only statistic I found genuinely surprising was that recent Latino immigrants generally have better health than the average American.  The quiz stated that these immigrants are poorer than the average American, yet do not experience the wealth-based health deficit also mentioned in the quiz.  The Latino immigrants do however, lose their health advantage not long after their arrival which suggests that the environment plays a huge role in their overall health.

“Bad Sugar” focuses on the Native American tribes, Tahono O’odham and Pima, and the very problematic presence of diabetes in the tribes.  Both tribes were otherwise very healthy when they lived off their land, producing their own crops and hunting their own game.  The diversion of the Gila River for other settlers and the construction of the Coolidge Dam forced Native American reliance on the commodity food program that supplied cheap and unhealthy foods.  Access to healthy foods is extremely limited and has been a huge contributor to the growth of diabetes in these communities.  Thankfully, an agreement was reached with the Arizona Water Settlements Act and the Gila River now continues to flow through the Pima land so the tribe can begin to rebuild their community and culture.

As shown in this video, poverty level can have a great influence on the development of diabetes.  The rate of diabetes is more than double for those with income of less than $20,000 as compared to those with an income of greater than $80,000.  Furthermore, the lack of access to water for the agriculturally-reliant Pima tribe destroyed their way of life and drove the rise in the prevalence of diabetes.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Zack Riem says:

    Hopefully with the new agreement, the natural flow of the Gila River will allow the tribes to rebuild their land. Starting at first with a reduction of the unhealthy foods that they have been eating, to introduce some of the healthier choices they can bring up themselves on their land.
    There are many problems that have arisen from the large population increase in the west. Access to water is key for the areas being built up to support the mass populating. Without the water supplied by Hoover and Coolidge Dams many of the cities that are dependent of the supply would be in dire need.
    The Government should be responsible for these problems, they have to ability to control flow and where the water is going and how much will go where. It is their responsibility to make sure the lands are receiving adequate water. While it is the burden of the Pima to take what is to be given to them and make the correct decision on what to consume. Most likely the outcome will be the Pima will continue to suffer form high diabetic rates because it is much easier to continue eating the foods they have rather then put in a lot of effort to produce their own.

  2. Justin Crane says:

    It sounds like the new settlement should help the Tahano O’odham and Pima tribes get back on track, but I do feel like changing something like the presence of diabetes will take some time. After a society has experienced a few generations of a disease, future generations tend to be more prone to developing that disease. I think a possible means for supplementing the act would be to provide the tribes with external sources of healthy foods for a set period of time. This healthy source of food should be similar to those the tribes consumed before the construction of the Coolidge dam, and should help offset the negative consequences of being a low income community.

    This sounds like it is first and foremost an economical problem. The construction of the dam and the diversion of the Gila River and not projects that are undertaken unless some party is gaining a financial benefit. However, I agree with Zack’s comment, the government should step in to fix the problem. To my knowledge the dam and the diversion of the river were not caused by the tribes and therefore the burden to fix them should not rest on the people who are suffering. I also believe that once the tribes have access to healthy water and adequate food stores again, it becomes their responsibility to eradicate the high rates of diabetes by consuming healthier foods. This may include consuming information about which foods will lower the rate of diabetes as well as changing their diets.

  3. Anthony Jurayj says:

    I think it was very decent of the american’s to help out the pima people even though they caused the initial problem. I do think that the problem was not taken seriously and the effects of limiting their essential water supply were not considered. The river is essential in any culture when it comes to crops and water, and i thought i was inconsiderate of them to completely remove it.
    If they were genuine about helping the Pima people, they would have had a better meal plan set up for them that included essential vitamins and nutrients. And for diabetes to go for as many generations as it did without finding the reason for the sudden increase is a problem. I do however like the idea that they made an agreement so that they can have continue water flow into their area to rebuild their community. Water is the essential component of all life.
    Your statement regarding the correlation between diabetes and income is very interesting to me. I think i would relate the high income areas to lower cases of diabetes because they are likely to have higher accessibility and availability of food. As compared to lower income areas where food deserts are present and higher fatty foods are more reasonable to buy.

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