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Majority of California Adults Have Prediabetes or Diabetes

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Information Source: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Nearly half of California adults, including one out of every three young adults, have either prediabetes — a precursor to type 2 diabetes — or undiagnosed diabetes, according to a study released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. The research provides the first analysis and breakdown of California prediabetes rates by county, age and ethnicity, offering alarming insights into the future of the nation’s diabetes epidemic.

The researchers analyzed hemoglobin A1c and fasting-plasma-glucose findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as California Health Interview Survey data from more than 40,000 respondents. Their findings indicate that some 13-million California adults, or 46 percent, have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes, while another 2.5-million adults, or 9 percent, already have been diagnosed with diabetes. Combined, the two groups represent 15.5-million people — 55 percent of the state’s population. Because diabetes is more common among older adults, the study’s finding that 33 percent of young adults aged 18-to-39 have prediabetes is of particular concern.

The study estimates prediabetes rates by county, finding major disparities across the state, particularly among those aged 18-to-39. Within that group, prediabetes rates ranged from lows of 26 percent in Lake County and 28 percent in San Francisco County to a high of 40 percent in rural Kings and Imperial counties.

Racial and ethnic disparities are extremely pronounced. There are statistically higher prediabetes rates among young-adult Pacific Islanders (43 percent), African-Americans (38 percent), American Indians (38 percent), multiracial Californians (37 percent), Latinos (36 percent) and Asian-Americans (31 percent) than among white young adults (29 percent), pointing to the need to focus additional prevention efforts in those communities.

Complicating matters, many people do not get tested for prediabetes because the test often is not covered by insurance, particularly for those under age 45. And although there are effective interventions to help people control their weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle, these programs often are not covered by insurers.

“There are significant barriers not only to people knowing their status, but also to getting effective help,” says Susan H. Babey, PhD, co-director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research’s Chronic Disease Program. “A simple blood test for diabetes should be covered by all insurers, as should the resources and programs that can make a real difference in stopping the progression of this terrible disease.”


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