A new survey sponsored by the American Heart Association contains good news and bad news for nurses who are working to eliminate diabetes health disparities in Hispanic communities. The poll found that the Hispanic participants’ awareness and knowledge of diabetes risk factors and the importance of managing their disease is extremely high. So what’s the bad news? According to the survey, many Hispanic patients do not act on this knowledge or make lifestyle changes that will help them better control their diabetes.

The survey of 500 people with type 2 diabetes (306 Caucasians, 107 African Americans and 87 Hispanics) found that more than 92% of the Hispanic respondents agreed strongly that diet and exercise are as important as taking medicine when it comes to managing diabetes. Seventy-eight percent said they are willing to increase their physical activity in order to control their disease. Yet nearly half of the Hispanic participants still reported a body mass index measurement in the obese or morbidly obese range. And while 65% had had a glycosylated hemoglobin A1C test (a measure of average blood glucose levels over a 90-120 day period) in the past year, 61% could not remember their last test score.

Given the fact that Hispanics are twice as likely as Caucasians to have diabetes, this is discouraging news. The findings strongly suggest that interventions by nurses must focus on strategies and resources that will help Hispanic patients begin to make the transition from awareness to action.

Robert Bonow, MD, president of the American Heart Association, argues that this failure to make the appropriate behavioral changes may not necessarily be the patients’ fault. “These findings help us understand that while members of the Latino/Hispanic community are eager to manage their health and diabetes, they may not have all the tools to help them do so,” he says.

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The association has taken its own step in this direction by developing The Heart of DiabetesSM: Understanding Insulin Resistance, a bilingual program that includes free interactive tools designed to help Hispanic patients take a more active role in controlling their disease and working more closely with their health care team. For more information, visit http://www.americanheart.org/.

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