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Language barrier just one roadblock to diabetes control for Chinese-speaking immigrants

Health providers helping Chinese-speaking Asian American immigrants with diabetes better control their disease to avoid complications need to do more than just have translators and bi-lingual staff in hospitals or doctors' offices. While that's a start, these patients also need comprehensive patient education materials written in Chinese and a medical staff thoroughly versed in the customs and cultural issues that may impede their diabetes care, according to a new study by researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center.

The Chinese-speaking immigrants who were surveyed at community health centers in Boston, New York City and Oakland, Calif., were found to have less knowledge of how to manage their diabetes and generally had a trend toward poor blood glucose control compared with Asian American immigrants who preferred to speak English, according to William C. Hsu, M.D., who led the pilot study along with his colleagues in Joslin's Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI). But after being given a bilingual diabetes education book, the participants showed improved understanding of their disease and a trend toward improved blood glucose control in laboratory tests.

The study, which appears in the February issue of the American Diabetes Association's journal, Diabetes Care, is among the first of its kind to explore language barriers to diabetes management among Chinese-speaking immigrant populations.

"The study is particularly important because Asian Americans have at least a 50 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes than Caucasian Americans," says Dr. Hsu, Co-director of Joslin's AADI. This fact is little known among both Asian Americans and physicians because Asian Americans are less likely to be overweight or obese. More than 10 percent of Asian Americans have diabetes. If poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to costly and devastating complications, especially stroke and kidney disease in Asian Americans.

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Contact: Marjorie Dwyer
marjorie.dwyer@joslin.harvard.edu
617-732-2415
Joslin Diabetes Center
7-Feb-2006


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