May 1, 2012

Understanding and Addressing Unique Needs of Diabetes in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders

George L. King, M.D., Marguerite J. McNeely, M.D., M.P.H., Lorna E. Thorpe, Ph.D., Marjorie L.M. Mau, M.D., M.S., Jocelyn Ko, B.A., Lenna L. Liu, M.D., M.P.H., Angela Sun, Phd, M.P.H., William C. Hsu, M.D., Edward A. Chow, M.D.

Diabetes Care

The Asian American (AA) population is currently the fastest growing population in the U.S., having expanded six times faster than the general population in the 1990s (1). In addition, diabetes prevalence continues to rise in this population, as observed for other populations around the world. However, given the diverse natures, cultures, and physiologies among the AA, Native Hawaiian (NH), and Pacific Islander (PI) (AANHPI) populations, and in particular the distinct diabetes profiles, an understanding of these factors can provide important clues to understand the genesis, pathophysiology, and treatment response of diabetes, as well as characterize community outreach programs needed for the wider net of diverse communities throughout the U.S. In this regard, a meeting, whose theme was “Diabetes in Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders: A Call to Action,” was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in September 2011 by a coalition of health care organizations and scientists with strong interests in the topic and in the health of AANHPI populations. There was consensus that there is a great need to understand the prevalence and pathophysiology and discuss potential intervention strategies regarding diabetes in AANHPI populations given the unique characteristics of this population. This information may help health care providers understand and improve diabetes prevention, treatment outcomes, and complications in AANHPI populations. In this review, we examine diabetes prevalence in different AANHPI populations to highlight the similarities and differences.

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