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November 29, 2001


New Diabetes Study Will Determine Effects of Socioeconomic Status on Glycemic Control

ATLANTA, GA, November 20, 2001 -- A new study being conducted by Emory University School of Medicine researchers at Grady Memorial Hospital will focus on determining the effects of socioeconomic status on glucose control. The study, Understanding Glycemic Outcomes In Urban African Americans With Diabetes, targets diabetic patients and will examine how issues such as poverty, access to medical care, family size, homelessness, and educational level may have an impact on diabetes severity on urban populations served by Grady Health System. The study began Sept. 1.

"We hope to get a better understanding of our patients so far as life and socioeconomic variables are concerned," said Curtiss Cook, M.D., principal investigator and associate professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, at Grady Hospital. "We know very little about how household size, marital and household status, education and income and other lifestyle issues might affect the severity of patients’ blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels."

According to the American Diabetes Association, 16 million people in the United States suffer from diabetes, although five million of them are not aware of it. The disease results when the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes is still unknown, although genetics, obesity and lack of exercise appear to be factors. There are two major types of diabetes. Type 1 occurs most often in children and young adults when the body does not produce any insulin, and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of diabetes. Type 2 is a metabolic disorder resulting from the body’s inability to make enough, or properly use, insulin. It is nearing epidemic proportions and accounts for 90 to 95 percent of diabetes, due mostly to an increased number of older Americans and a greater prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and leg amputations among adults. The disease ranks second highest in the country among African Americans.

"There are things we can do to help patients lessen their complications," Dr. Cook said. "Our role as practitioners is to prevent the bad things that can happen when you have diabetes."

Recent clinical trials have shown that achieving good glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol control can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes complications.

The project seeks to evaluate 600 new patients seen in the Grady Diabetes Clinic through May 1, 2002. Each patient will be given questionnaires to answer about their exercise habits, tobacco and alcohol use, household and income status, and barriers to medical care, among other questions. The information will later be assessed and analyzed to develop a hypothesis that differences in socioeconomic characteristics lead to disparities in glucose control, hypertension severity, and levels of key lipids.

"Collecting and analyzing data on such a large number of patients would not be possible without the tremendous support of the personnel of the Diabetes Clinic and the Grady Health System," said Dr. Cook.

The foremost goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of diabetes patients and discover how various social situations impact the disease so that better education and treatment approaches can be developed.

Eli Lilly and Co. has contributed almost $60,000 to the study.

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