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Study of Social Determinants Reveals Financial Hardships Take Most Significant Toll on Health in Elderly Adults with Diabetes

Milwaukee, July 13, 2020 – Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) researchers are working to understand the health of individuals found to be at high risk for poor outcomes of COVID-19, adults with diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified this population as a group at higher risk for COVID-19, and individuals with diabetes that have blood sugar levels higher than target may be at even higher risk. A recent study led by MCW researchers Leonard E. Egede, MD, MS; Rebekah J. Walker, PhD; Emma Garacci, MS; Anna Palatnik, MD, and Mukoso N. Ozieh, MD, “The Longitudinal Influence of Social Determinants of Health on Glycemic Control in Elderly Adults with Diabetes,” was published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care and highlights some of the social factors that influence outcomes for adults with diabetes, several of which are significant risk factors for COVID-19.

Based on data from more than 2,500 individuals with diabetes over the course of eight years, the study highlights the relationship between financial, psychosocial and neighborhood social determinants and glycemic control in older adults with diabetes. Findings showed that financial hardship factors, such as difficulty paying bills, were more consistently associated with worsening blood sugar control over time than psychosocial and neighborhood factors.

“One of the major limitations in understanding the role of social determinants on diabetes outcomes is evidence collected over time,” Dr. Walker said. “This study adds to our understanding of the importance of financial hardship over time, which has implications for diabetes complications and poor outcomes in the future.”

Social determinants of health are conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live and age. Researchers believe that understanding the role that social determinants have on diabetes outcomes can reveal more information about social concerns within communities, specifically social concerns that impact the Milwaukee community.

“This research highlights a need for targeted health related interventions that address social concerns,” Dr. Egede said. “Our research team has begun a number of studies in the Milwaukee area on this topic, but even more work is needed to guide local, state and federal policies.”

Funding for this study was provided in part by the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease, the NIH National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities, the American Diabetes Association and the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin/Clinical and Translational Science Award program at MCW.

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