Northwell Health Breaks Down Racial Disparities in Diabetes Prevalence

Northwell Health is a DiversityInc Top 50 Hall of Fame company.


The stigma around diabetes is common, yet medical researchers have debunked factors like individual choice, body fat or ethnic biology as causes of the disease. Instead, diabetes is one of many health conditions that expose racial and class-related health disparities.

Northwell Health used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other studies to look at racial disparities in the prevalence of and morbidity from diabetes in the U.S.

“The impacts of social inequities, including conditions created by systemic racism and poverty — like access to quality, affordable healthcare, nutritious foods and a clean environment — as well as other factors like family history, have been shown to heavily influence diabetes rates,” wrote the company.

These inequities also impact the treatment for those who have been diagnosed with diabetes. The price of insulin has spiked significantly in the past two decades, disproportionately impacting low-income and uninsured populations.

According to the CDC, people of color experience much higher rates of diabetes than white populations. The prevalence of diabetes among different demographics in the 2018-19 timeframe it was measured is broken down below:

  • 14.5% of American Indian and Alaska Natives
  • 12.% of Black populations
  • 11.8% of Hispanic populations
  • 9.5% of Asian populations
  • 7.4% of white populations.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, poverty, high exposure to toxins, limited access to affordable nutritious foods and inaccessible health care services — factors linked to systemic racism — elevate the risk of diabetes.

“Studies have shown that diabetes mortality is influenced by the same risk factors that put Black and Indigenous Americans at higher risk for diabetes in the first place: segregation, poverty conditions created by systemic racism and lack of access to affordable health care,” Northwell Health wrote. “For those without equitable access to affordable treatments and monitoring by doctors for potential complications, diabetes is more likely to become deadly.”



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