Study Says Diabetic Crises More Likely For the Poor

diabetes and poor peopleWhile food stamps may not be on the forefront of diabetes issues, a recent study suggests that in many ways, food stamps—or at the very least, economic access to food—is a major issue for those with diabetes, particularly among the poor. There are many expenses associated with diabetes; testing kits need constant refills of items like Aviva test strips and Freestyle lancets, and many diabetics are in constant need of cheap insulin syringes and other supplies for diabetes. It’s important to note that food is also a prime need for diabetics—and one that many diabetics who are also poor tend to go without, leading to complications and hospital visits.


Researchers were compelled by the recent debate on the food stamp program to see if there could be a link between food access and diabetic crises. According to their findings, poor people with diabetes are significantly more likely to go to the hospital for dangerously low blood sugar at the end of the month, when food budgets tend to be tighter. There was no similar increase among higher-income people. The study was published earlier this month in the journal Health Affairs, and was conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco. They matched hospital discharge records from the year 2000 to 2008 on more than two million individuals in California with those patients’ ZIP codes; those who lived in the poorest areas, where the average annual household income was below $31,000, were counted as low income. The study was not able to take into account the amount of money those patients spent on products such as freestyle lancets or aviva test strips, cheap insulin syringes or other supplies for diabetes—only their overall income and the rate at which those patients were admitted for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.


The researchers found that out of every 100,000 admissions of poor individuals, some 270 were given a primary diagnosis of hypoglycemia; while this may not seem like a large number, it’s greater than the 200 per 100,000 admissions among people of higher incomes. Dr. Hilary Seligman, the study’s lead author, pointed out that previous research had already established that people often give a higher priority to paying monthly bills for rent or utilities than to buying food, which is managed day to day. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University who was not one of the study’s researchers, said that the findings were persuasive in indicating a pattern, adding that “The researchers obviously can’t say if food deprivation was the definitive triggering event, but the findings show a strong association between lack of food and adverse health consequences.”  While many diabetics generally attempt to scrimp on purchases such as cheap insulin syringes, freestyle lancets or aviva test strips along with other supplies for diabetes because their budgets are tight, it’s important for diabetics to also make sure that they are getting the food and medicines they need; continuing to take medicine without eating, or eating without taking medicine, can have deadly consequences—considering that both hypoglycemia and its counterpoint hyperglycemia are sometimes deadly

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