Study finds diabetes most prevalent in southern United States

9/30/2009

NEW YORK Diabetes prevalence is highest in the Southern and Appalachian states, and lowest in the Midwest and the Northeast of America, a new study found.

Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Population Health Metrics used two public data sources to investigate the prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes mellitus at the state level.

Goodarz Danaei, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, worked with a team of researchers to combine the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

"Diabetes mellitus is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for approximately 70,000 annual deaths," Danaei said. "To our knowledge, this is the first study to estimate what the true level of diabetes disease is in every state and how the different states perform in terms of diagnosed versus undiagnosed diabetes."

Age-standardized diabetes prevalence was highest in Mississippi, West Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, ranging from 15.8% to 16.6% for men and 12.4% to 14.8% for women. The lowest prevalences were found in Vermont, Minnesota, Montana, and Colorado, just 7% for women in the Northeast and some Western states. These results currently provide the only estimates of total diabetes and undiagnosed diabetes in U.S. states.

According to Danaei, "States like Mississippi and Alabama with the highest estimated diabetes prevalence in our analysis also have the highest levels of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease risk. This concentration of cardiovascular risks and diabetes points to the need for lifestyle and health care interventions in these states."

The researchers hope their figures will provide motivation, guidance, and benchmarks for designing, implementing, and evaluating diabetes prevention and state level control programs at the state level.

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