Type 1 Diabetes Control Worse in Racially Segregated Teens

Heidi Splete

June 24, 2022

Racial residential segregation was significantly associated with poor glycemic control in Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes, according to data from 144 individuals.

Racial residential segregation is considered a form of systemic racism that involves limited access to resources, including health care resources, Deborah A. Ellis, MD, of Wayne State University, Detroit, and colleagues wrote in a poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association.

In the study, the researchers recruited youth aged 10-15 years with type 1 diabetes from seven pediatric clinics in two large U.S. cities. The mean age of the participants was 13.3 years, and the mean hemoglobin A1c was 11.5%.

Diabetes management was based on self-reports using the Diabetes Management Scale (DMS). Racial residential segregation, which refers to the separation of groups within a geographic area, was determined using data from the U.S. Census using Location Quotient (LQ) at the block group level; this showed the ratio of the Black population to the total population, compared with the same ratio in the metropolitan area.

The mean family income was $34,163, and the mean LQ was 3.04, "indicating residence in highly segregated neighborhoods," the researchers wrote.

Overall, racial residential segregation was significantly associated with A1c (P = .001) but not with DMS (P = .311). The researchers also conducted a stepwise multiple regression analysis including age, insulin delivery method, neighborhood adversity (a 9-item composite with variables including percentage of persons living in poverty, percentage of households with no vehicle), and family income. They found that only age, insulin delivery method, and racial residential segregation had significant impacts of A1c levels.

The study was limited by several factors, including the use of self-reports.

However, the results are consistent with previous studies showing the potential negative health effects of structural racism, the researchers wrote. The findings suggest that racial residential segregation has an independent effect on glycemic control in Black youth with type 1 diabetes, and consequently, "advocacy and policymaking to address such inequities could improve diabetes population health."

Location Makes a Difference

"Poor neighborhoods have been associated with high rates of obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol," Romesh K. Khardori, MD, professor of medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, said in an interview. However, "not much is known about impact of racial segregation on type 1 diabetes," said Khardori, who was not involved in the study.

Khardori was not surprised by the current study findings. "In our practice, Black youth coming from racially segregated or low-income housing projects often tend to have poor diabetes control, with repeated admissions to local hospitals for managing acute/chronic complications of type 1 diabetes," he said.

The current findings reflect Khardori's clinical experience and highlight the need for clinicians to recognize the increased risk for poor glycemic control and poor outcomes in this vulnerable population.

More research is needed to expand the observations of the current study, Khardori said. Future researchers also should "involve community leaders and politicians to educate and garner more support for mitigation efforts."

The study was supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ellis and Khardori had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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