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Diabetes critical problem for Oklahoma minorities

OKLAHOMA CITY – Diabetes is a growing problem in Oklahoma especially among the state’s minority communities. Occurrence of diabetes among American Indians and African Americans is double that of Caucasians. Sen. Constance N. Johnson and Rep. Randy McDaniel will be joining other community leaders Monday, November 14 for the 3rd Annual Capitol Dome Blue World Diabetes Day Program at the State Capitol to help raise awareness about the growing health epidemic.

This year’s program will feature a special panel presentation, “A Healthy Mind Keeps The Blues Away,” that will focus on the potential co-occurrence of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health conditions with diabetes. Participants will also receive information about tools for measuring the extent to which such mental health conditions are occurring, and insight about the potential impact of self medication and substance abuse on the disease. A variety of health care providers and professionals will provide the most up-to-date information about diabetes programs and services, with an extra focus on ethnicity and multiculturalism.

“The prevalence of diabetes among minority communities especially Native Americans and African Americans in Oklahoma is alarming. We must do all we can to educate these groups and help prevent any more unnecessary deaths,” said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. “We want to reach out and help these communities, but hope all Oklahomans will take advantage of all the resources that will be available at this special event.”

According to the Oklahoma Health Department, around 15 percent of Oklahoma Native Americans and African Americans in the state have diabetes compared to less than 10 percent of Caucasians. The diabetes mortality rate for these two groups in the state is also significantly higher than for other groups. Oklahoma Native Americans have just over a 60 percent diabetes mortality rate while African Americans have a nearly 56 percent rate. The mortality rate for Caucasians is much lower at just under 26 percent.

“We can no longer ignore the health disparities among our minority communities. It has become a matter of life and death especially when it comes to the prevalence of diabetes,” said McDaniel, R-Edmond. “This free event will provide these individuals all the tools they need to improve their health and protect their families. We want to urge Oklahomans to come join us and help make Oklahoma healthier.”

Joining the fight against diabetes are American Indian created and led, non-profit organizations like Native Youth Preventing Diabetes (NYPD) and the Oklahoma Inter-Tribal Diabetes Coalition (OIDC).

“Our mission is not necessarily to educate specific patients,” said Ron McIntosh, OIDC President. “We focus our attention on ensuring that programs like NYPD, tribal health programs, and any other program that may treat Native patients have the education materials and training necessary to provide the most appropriate education possible.”

At 13 percent, Oklahoma Hispanics also suffer at a higher rate of diabetes than Caucasians (at less than 10 percent). The prevalence of diabetes deaths is not as high as in the African and Native American communities, but it is still higher than that of Caucasians at just over 27 percent.

“Hispanic Americans experience higher rates of diet-related chronic diseases such as overweight/obesity and diabetes compared to non-Hispanics. Mexican American adults are two times more likely than other ethnic groups to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes,” said Diana Romano, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service FCS Educator. “Unfortunately, this isn’t just a problem for Hispanic adults either. Among overweight Hispanic children, Insulin Resistance Syndrome estimates were found to range from 26 to nearly 40 percent in 2007. Therefore, it’s imperative that we help raise awareness and teach healthier lifestyles at earlier ages in this community.”

The free event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Second Floor Rotunda of the State Capitol. Speakers and more than twenty local and national organizations and exhibitors will be on hand to offer free information and education about diabetes prevention, management and advocacy. Participants will light the Capitol Dome blue, as part of World Diabetes Day, along with 1,100 monuments worldwide.

The event will be sponsored by numerous agency and community partners including the African American Community Diabetes Prevention Partners, the Oklahoma City/County Health Department - Wellness NOW Initiative, the State Department of Health, the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center, the Wewoka Indian Health Center, the Oklahoma City Area Indian Health Service/Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, the American Diabetes Association, and many others. 

For more information about the event or how to become a vendor, please contact Tiffany Afflalo-Williams at, or 405-312-5839; or Senator Johnson at; fax # 405-521-5580.

Contact info
Sen. Johnson: (405) 521-5531 Rep. McDaniel: (405) 557-7409