This third segment of an eight-part series on health disparities in the Pittsburgh region is a collaboration among the New Pittsburgh Courier, Community PARTners (a core service of the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute—CTSI) and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh. Pitt School of Medicine assistant professor Michael Yonas, DrPH, sat down with Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League, to talk about this month’s focus on diabetes in Allegheny County.
MY: Thank you for making this partnership with the New Pittsburgh Courier and CTSI possible. This month’s segment on diabetes awareness is so important. We know that exercising and eating well can help prevent type 2 diabetes, but the rates of diabetes are increasing in the African American community. Why do you think this is the case?
EB: Well, we are ALL busy. We have jobs, homes, family and friends to take care of. As I well know, it is also very hard to change behaviors, and many things affect our ability to change. For example, I know from previous research that it is important to eat well, but I don’t always do so. But with the support of family and friends, I have been able to make changes to my diet. I also live near a grocery store and have access to fresh foods. But, many in the African American community don’t have such support and access to healthier foods; some live in so-called “food deserts.” I wish the solution to reducing the high rates of diabetes was as easy as sharing information about how people should be exercising and eating well. Getting that information out is an important first step. The next steps are connecting our community to resources and supports.
MY: How can the African American community get connected to such resources and supports?
EB: I encourage people to talk with their doctor or health care provider about any concerns they may have—particularly about being overweight because type 2 diabetes is more common in people who are overweight. Don’t be shy. Talk with your doctor so he or she can connect you with services and help you develop a plan for addressing diabetes. And, of course, we can all incorporate healthier eating habits and exercise into our daily routines. A modest change here and there can quickly add up to some significant health improvements. I also encourage everyone to reach out to the diabetes research studies now underway at Pitt because they can provide you with additional resources and personal attention.