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Diabetes disparities: Pennsylvania Department of Health diabetes specialists work to improve health equity

by Penn State Health News
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No one wants to hear the “Big D” diagnosis: diabetes. This is a disease that means administering new medications, lifestyle changes, and increasingly the use of diabetes technology.

March 20, 2024Penn State Health News

However, for people of color, lack of access to that critical technology can impact diabetes management and increase the risk of future complications.

Chrisie Gehman, Penn State Health Registered Dietitian, Board Certified Diabetes care and education experts in Penn State Health Center Lyme Spring Outpatient Centerhas made it her mission to learn about the intersection of diabetes and minorities, and how equal access to technology can have a profound impact on health outcomes.

Become aware of your “blind spots”

“As a health care provider, I realized that I have personal biases and needed more information to recognize gaps in care and my own blind spots,” Gehman said. “Education is key to addressing implicit bias. In this case, bias can influence how groups of people receive information about helpful technologies.”

Bias, whether implicit or conscious, can impact access to technology. This prevents people of color from having equal opportunities to use technology to improve diabetes management, health outcomes, and quality of life.

Challenges undermine self-control

Gehman said the results are alarming. Overall, black people are “more than twice as likely as white people to experience high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and die prematurely from all causes,” according to a study by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Professionals. Systemic inequalities make white people at 7.6% risk of developing diabetes, compared with 13.2% for blacks, 12.5% ​​for Hispanics, and 9.2% for Asians, according to the CDC report.

Diabetes self-management is important to achieving target blood sugar levels and delaying potential complications. Underserved groups not only face this problem, but may also have to deal with language barriers, financial hardship, and challenges in accessing medical appointments, including virtual care. there is.

TechQuity: Advancing health equity

Additional research explores diabetes technologies such as connected insulin pumps, continuous blood glucose monitoring, smart insulin pens, remote coaching programs, decision support software, health and wellness applications, and telemedicine visits to manage diabetes. There is evidence of disparities in use between groups.

Despite the higher prevalence of diabetes among these groups, people of color use technology less than white people, a study by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Professionals found. “According to the association’s research, blacks had the lowest rates of insulin pump use at 20%, Hispanics at 49%, and whites at 61%,” Gehman said.

To eliminate these disparities, the concept of “TechQuity” is being promoted. It aims to ensure equity in health care by promoting the development and use of medical technologies that are accessible to all patients, regardless of race or other factors.

“All the information I have learned, including information from my own research focused on diversity, is helping us develop plans to address inequities in diabetes care and education.” said Gehman. Through additional reviews of her research and participation in diabetes seminars focused on diversity, she is working to develop diabetes education resources available to other disease professionals.

Tackling health disparities and unconscious bias

Gehman’s efforts align with the Penn State Department of Health’s efforts to address health disparities that affect diverse populations. “In 2022, we launched a matrix approach to advance health equity with a focus on stroke avoidance. Diabetes is a risk factor for stroke,” said Lynette, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer.・Chappell Williams said. “Understanding implicit bias increases awareness of the unique challenges patients may face.”

To increase employee awareness of these challenges, Penn State Medical Center offers CultureVision. Online databases provide information about the health beliefs and practices of various religious, ethnic, and social communities. “This is a great resource for learning about health conditions that are disproportionately experienced by diverse populations,” Chappell-Williams says.

Penn State Medical Center also offers monthly education sessions to its employees called Upstander Café. These sessions are designed to help employees develop skills to reduce their own unconscious biases and address biases they see in others.

If you have trouble accessing this content or would like it in another format, please email Penn State Health Marketing & Communications.

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