NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 6, 2006

Diabetics along the border are twice as likely as other diabetic Texans to have to resort to amputation, according to a recently released study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the authors:

  • Border residents accounted for 19 percent of all hospitalization fees for diabetes-related amputations in 2003, despite making up only 10 percent of the state's population.
  • In addition, large populations of Hispanics, who make up about 85 percent of border residents and are already genetically predisposed to developing diabetes, may also contribute to the higher amputation rates.

Dietitians and doctors say the solution is theoretically simple: Improve the quality and frequency of medical care and education about the disease for diabetic patients. But that's far from easy to change, say the authors:

  • For many residents along the border, doctors with specialized training in diabetes treatment, are rare.
  • Some Texas border counties have only one doctor, according to the Texas Medical Association.
  • More populous counties, such as El Paso and Cameron, have several hundred doctors; but seeing those physicians is still a challenge in areas where nearly a quarter of residents don't have insurance.

Additionally, poverty -- which about 25 percent of border residents live in nationally -- also contributes to the problem:

  • Poverty often means that patients wait until the situation is out of hand; some of those patients put off treatment because they don't even know they are diabetics.
  • Poverty can also limit a diabetic's ability to control the disease, compounding the problem.

Source: Alicia A. Caldwell, "Diabetics along border twice as likely to have amputations," Associated Press/Houston Chronicle, December 6, 2006.


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