“Bad Sugar”

The Health Equity Quiz was harder than I was anticipating and I only got 2 of the questions correct.  I was surprised by each statistic presented in this quiz but I was most shocked at how much money is spent per person on health care in the United States. Its exhausting to learn how much money is going into health care and yet the United States hasn’t been able to achieve better health outcomes, and the American health care system is perceived to be among the worst compared to other industrialized countries. Additionally, the economic disparity between the rich and the poor is also another taxing piece of information to learn.

“Bad Sugar” is a public impact campaign on Type II diabetes, which arises because the energy produced when insulin is used to convert glucose, the bloods sugar, isn’t used efficiently. The glucose builds up in the blood stream damaging blood vessels and leading to more serious health complications. This case study examines the Tohono O’odham American Indian Tribe’s high prevalence for this disease with at least half of this tribe developing Type II diabetes. More than their genes can explain this tribe’s heath disparity to Type II diabetes. Other influences on their health include their life-style choices and availability of and access to nutritious food and clean water.

The tribe was unable to continue to cultivate their own crops and work in the fields due to scarcity of water after water projects implemented on the Gila River eliminated the tribe’s main source of water. Processed foods became a surplus in this impoverished community where healthy food choices were limited. Their dietary habits alone could be a factor in this tribes spiked blood sugar levels. Moreover, stressors caused by their water problem increased this tribe’s prevalence for the disease because hormones are released when stressed that activate glucose production. Also, another non-genetic factor could be this tribe’s attitude. By believing they will eventually be diagnosed with diabetes they may have lost focus in taking care of themselves.

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  1. Delisa Quayson says:

    The tribe up until 50 years ago had only one recorded case of diabetes. The spike in the number of cases of diabetes resulted from the change in life-style and eating habits of the Pima people. Given that these choices were out of their hands because after the Gila River was dammed they lost their main livelihood. They lost their farms, which meant they were out of jobs and crops that they lived off of. They became one of the poorest tribes and could not afford food. Some people starved to death. The American government began a food program that supplied them with food but not healthy food. They were given canned foods, a lot of high glucose items like candy and other processed foods. Coupled with their lack of physical activity that they had from working on the farms and the high stress from the poverty resulted in the high levels of diabetes amongst the tribe. The government has done their part in restoring the water flow and now the Pima have their farms back. Hopefully this is going to help them economically and provide them with healthier food choices but it is going to take individual effort. The locals have to stop looking at diabetes as part of their everyday life and make the effort to educate themselves on the disease and find out how they can avoid getting it and if they already have it then how to deal with it and make better choices.

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