By Regina Dodson | Community Health and Human Services Intern
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide, and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in the African American community. According to the American Diabetes Association, African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic whites. This is a significant problem that must be addressed to prevent the debilitating complications associated with the disease.
There are several reasons why diabetes is affecting the African American community. A primary factor is genetics, as research has shown that African Americans are more likely to develop diabetes due to their genetic makeup. Additionally, there are social determinants of health that contribute to the higher prevalence of diabetes in African Americans, such as limited access to healthcare, poverty, and discrimination.
Food deserts, defined as areas where there is limited access to healthy and affordable food options, are also prevalent in African American communities. They have been linked to a higher incidence of diabetes. Access to healthy food options is critical for the prevention and management of diabetes, as a healthy diet is a primary component of diabetes management. The elimination of food deserts in African American communities can help to reduce diabetes.
According to the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, food deserts are more prevalent in African American communities compared to white communities, and they are associated with a higher incidence of diabetes. Lack of access to healthy food options can lead to a diet high in saturated fats, sugar, and processed foods, which are all risk factors. In addition to the lack of access to healthy food options, food deserts are also associated with poverty, which can lead to limited financial resources to purchase healthy foods. Low-income individuals are more likely to live in food deserts, and they are at a higher risk of developing diabetes due to their limited access to healthy foods (Walker et al, 2010).
Food deserts can be minimized in African American communities by investing in grocery stores and farmers’ markets that provide fresh produce and healthy food options. Additionally, community gardens and urban farming initiatives can help to provide healthy food options in underserved communities (Walker & Block, 2011). Community gardens and urban agriculture programs have been shown to be effective in increasing access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. These programs provide residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, which can help reduce the incidence of diabetes and other chronic diseases and improve overall health outcomes (Lebrón et al, 2019).
LeBrón, A. M. W., Schulz, A. J., Gamboa, C., Reyes, A. G., & Cordero, E. D. (2019). Food environment interventions to improve the dietary behavior of African Americans: A systematic review. Preventive Medicine Reports, 15, 100940.
Walker, R. E., Keane, C. R., & Burke, J. G. (2010). Disparities and access to healthy food in the United States: a review of food deserts literature. Health & place, 16(5), 876-884.
Walker, R. E., & Block, J. P. (2011). Opportunities for intervention: changing the environment to improve health. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 17(Suppl 1), S44-S50.