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Crosscurrents logo 2021

"Dealing with Diabetes" in California

Courtesy of Capital Public Radio/Flickr capradio
Eddie Mendez now has a prosthetic leg after an amputation that was caused by a severe burn he was unable to feel due to diabetes-induced neuropathy.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Close to 19 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease, and of those diagnosed, 5 million are African American.

Native Americans are also being devastated by diabetes, but communities are taking steps to fight the disease in ways unique to their cultural traditions. Many realize their health is directly tied to the choices they make in life. Like at the grocery store, where the choice between broccoli and biscuits can ultimately mean the difference between life and death.

The blood sugar disease is also an epidemic in new ethnic communities, like California’s Hmong population, which is one of the largest in the country. For most of their long history, the Hmong people lived in mountainous regions of China and southeast Asia – in a nearly pre-industrial world. In the 1970s, many began emigrating to the US after the Vietnam War. Significant numbers began settling in California’s Central Valley, where they have a new life of opportunity and unhealthy temptation – things like fast food, soft drinks, and candy – food that’s very different from what they’re accustomed to.

Capital Public Radio Reporter Pauline Bartolone visited each of these communities in the Sacramento area and brings us this documentary about Diabetes and its role in Northern California health.

“Dealing with Diabetes” was originally produced by Capital Public Radio. Pauline Bartolone, Catherine Stifter, Paul Conley, Alan Ray, and Joe Barr all contributed to the production. Funding was provided by the California Endowment and the California HealthCare Foundation.