Diabetes in the Bronx: epicenter of an epidemic
By James Palmer
The Bronx and New York City are positioned at the perilous front of the country’s escalating diabetes epidemic.
According to a recent survey published by the New York City Department of Health, one in every three people in the borough suffers from diabetes.
The number of people with the disease across the city spiked to 650,000 during that same period, according to the department — an increase of 200,000.
The average rate of diabetes cases in Riverdale and Kingsbridge is 7.3 percent, according to the survey. The Fordham-Bronx Park neighborhood has the highest rate in the city at 14.6 percent, while the Chelsea-Greenwich area show the lowest rate at 4.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the disease is steadily increasing across the United States.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the number of Americans with the disease has climbed to 25.8 million — 8.3 percent of the population. That is still lower than the rate of the disease in the city at 10.5 percent.
Diabetes is most prevalent among minority and low-income populations. To make matters worse, these people often have limited access to adequate health care.
“Poorer people are doing poorly,” said Dr. Robert Morrow, a primary care physician in Riverdale.
According to the city health department, diabetes is most prevalent among Hispanics and blacks, followed closely by Asians.
The disease is deadly if not diagnosed and treated. Experts say diabetes increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and amputations, if untreated.
“Clearly there is a difference in outcomes,” says Dr. Morrow, referring to the higher number of deaths and amputations from diabetes related complications among minorities and low-income households.
If treated too late, the disease can lead to excessive expenses for patients, health insurers and the government. The ADA said the cost of diagnosed diabetes treatment in the country ran up to $245 billion in 2012. The cost is between $150,000 and $200,000 annually to provide dialysis for one patient with diabetes and kidney disease.