Study suggests doctors consider cultural differences in diabetes management

6/10/2008

BOSTON According to a new study in The Archives of Internal Medicine, physicians are treating patients with chronic diseases the same regardless of ethnicity and this is leading to worse outcomes for minorities in regards to overall health, as reported by The New York Times.

The researchers studied diabetes patients from all ethnic groups and found that doctors weren’t practicing racism, they just did not appear to know how to treat other ethnic groups and as a result of treating them all the same, received different responses.

The results from the glucose tests, for example, found that 71 percent of white patients and 63 percent of black ones were adequately controlling their blood sugar levels, even though they were given the same level of care by the same physician.

“It isn’t that providers are doing different things for different patients,” said author Thomas Sequist, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. “It’s that we’re doing the same thing for every patient and not accounting for individual needs. Our one-size-fits-all approach may leave minority patients with needs that aren’t being met.”

For instance, he said, counseling black or Latino patients with diabetes to lower their carbohydrate intake by cutting rice from their diets may not be a realistic strategy if rice is a family staple.

“We may be listing fruits and vegetables that are part of one person’s culture but not another,” Sequist said. “We’re not really giving them information they can use.”

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