Southeastern US Home to the "Diabetes Belt"

March 8, 2011
Sean Johnson

Diabetes is a major problem in the United States, and scientists recently zoned in on the areas that need the most care and prevention.

Diabetes is a major problem in the United States, and scientists recently zoned in on the areas that need the most care and prevention.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recently discovered that several states in the southeastern United States have diabetes rates above 11 percent, compared to the national average of 8.5 percent. Some of the states that included these higher rates of diabetes include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

This higher concentration of diabetic patients in the southeastern part of the country has now led to researchers dubbing the area the “Diabetes Belt,” which simply means that those living within the belt are more likely to suffer from the disease. The same region is home to the “Stroke Belt;” an unsurprising fact considering that diabetes sufferers are more prone to heart disease. The entire Diabetes Belt consists of 644 counties in 15 states, including all of the counties in the state of Mississippi.

U.S. News and World Report also offered up some additional information on those within the Diabetes Belt:

“People living in the diabetes belt counties were more likely to be black (23.8 percent in diabetes belt counties versus 8.6 percent in the rest of the country), and were more likely to be obese (32.9 percent in the diabetes belt compared to 26.1 percent in the rest of the country). And, a sedentary lifestyle was more common in the diabetes belt areas than nationally (30.6 percent versus 24.8 percent, respectively). The study also found that the number of people with a college degree was lower in the diabetes belt counties than in the rest of the country: 24.1 percent versus 34.3 percent.”

So…now what?

Well, according to lead investigator of the study, Dr. Lawrence E. Barker of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, “Identifying a diabetes belt by counties allows community leaders to identify regions most in need of efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes and to manage existing cases of the disease.” Barkers also said that, “Although many risk factors for type 2 diabetes can’t be changed, others can. Community design that promotes physical activity, along with improved access to healthy food, can encourage the healthy lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Around the Web:

U.S. 'diabetes belt' is identified [CNN]

Southeastern States Mired in the 'Diabetes Belt': CDC Report [US News and World Report]

Southeastern U.S. Named 'Diabetes Belt' by Scientists [AOL]