Type 2 Diabetes a Bigger Issue for Financially Disadvantaged

Type 2 diabetes has always been an issue in the United States due to large portion sizes and generally unhealthy food, but many have been able to manage their disease and live a relatively normal life despite the dietary requirements imposed by this form of diabetes. Health insurance programs can help patients afford their medications and doctor visits, but it doesn’t do much to help patients afford the healthy food essential to controlling their diseases, leaving disadvantaged people in a difficult place. Many are unsure where their next meal or month of rent will come from, and it makes having the disease much more difficult to manage.

A new study shows that poverty and diabetes might conflict even more than originally thought. 411 type 2 diabetes patients in and around the Boston area of Massachusetts were surveyed, and the survey shows that patients that are financially forced to take less medication or eat less nutritious food are only half as likely to manage their disease as their more financially secure peers, despite the fact that nearly everyone in the state has health insurance thanks to laws requiring medical insurance and prescription coverage as well as free health insurance for adults that can’t afford it.

The results outline the ways that a person’s medical health can be radically effected by things that are out of the doctor’s and patient’s control, such as an inability to afford healthier foods or sufficient medication. It’s easy to assume that better access to medical care would lead to better health, but the issue isn’t as cut-and-dry with diseases like type 2 diabetes that require stringent dietary regulation.

Four clinics were taken into consideration for this study of 411 people, two based at Massachusetts General Hospital and two smaller community health centers based in the surrounding Boston suburbs. At first, the data seems positive, showing that only about 4% of patients with type 2 diabetes lacked health insurance, and not even 3% were lacking prescription coverage. However, 40% of patients were financially insecure, unsure if they’d be able to afford food, rent, or essential utilities in the coming month. These disadvantaged patients were 97% more likely to have high levels of blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and once the fact that that statistic could apply to nearly half of all type 2 diabetes patients in this area is considered, the problem becomes much more apparent and shocking.

Predictably, the same problem afflicts those with limited funds who skimp on medication in an effort to buy enough food that month. Patients unable to afford their full dose of medication were 91% more likely to have high blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

This study has sparked discussions in the medical community about how to handle diseases that cannot be controlled with medication alone going forward. For patients with diseases like type 2 diabetes, treatment includes not only medication, but a specific (and often expensive) diet. Without one, the other is very ineffective, so doctors are beginning to develop solutions to provide more complete treatment to patients with more complicated requirements.

How do you think the medical community could solve this problem? Have you ever faced a similar situation? Share your insight with us in the comments section below.