Kaiser Permanente Research Study Reveals Pacific Islanders Get Diabetes at Lower BMI

Sep 21, 2019 |  Social Determinants of Health, Diabetes, Kaiser Permanente, Pacific Islanders

Kaiser Permanente Research investigators have concluded that members of certain minority and racial groups are more likely to get diabetes or prediabetes at lower rates—even at normal or below-normal body mass index (BMI).

The recent study, published in Diabetes Care, reveals certain groups such as Pacific Islanders (Hawaiian, Samoan, Tongan, etc.) are especially at risk.

Patient Outcomes Research to Advance Learning Network.

The large analysis involved the study of more than 4.9 million people of diverse backgrounds and geographies who were part of the nationwide Patient Outcomes Research to Advance Learning Network. The PORTAL study group, supported by the Patient Outcomes Research to Advance Learning Network, includes data on more than 12 million patients contributed by all regions of Kaiser Permanente, along with HealthPartners in Minnesota and Denver Health.

The Findings

Pacific Islanders (including Hawaiians who tend to be mixed with other ethnic groups) were three times more likely to have diabetes than normal-weight white people. Diabetes prevalence at normal BMI was 18% for Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders versus just 5% for whites; prevalence was also high for blacks (13.5%) and Hispanics (12.9%), Asians (10.1%) and American Indians/Alaskan Natives (9.6%).

Interestingly disparities were also found in prediabetes—but were not as pronounced.

Investigator Comment

Assiamira Ferrara, MD, Ph.D., senior research scientists, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, CA reports that for primary care physicians the research findings may signal a change in how providers will screen racial and ethnic patients for diabetes and prediabetes. She noted, “This study suggests that along with screening patients who are overweight and obese, minorities should probably be screened even if they have a normal BMS, particularly as they get older.”

Funding

The study was funded by grants from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Lead Research/Investigator

Assiamira Ferrara, MD, Ph.D., senior research scientists, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, CA

Yeyi Zhu, Ph.D., research scientists, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, CA

Call to Action: Do you fall into a group that may have a higher risk of getting diabetes? Be mindful of lifestyle, diet and ensuring you exercise and check with your physician about more frequent check-ups. Are you a sponsor that seeks access to large amounts of population health and observational data research opportunities? Kaiser Permanente should be considered for a partnership.

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