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WMJ: Wisconsin’s Hmong at increased risk for diabetes

Release Date: November 16, 2015
Contact: Jennifer Wieman - 608.442.3765 jennifer.wieman@wismed.org

MADISON (November 16, 2015)—Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent among Wisconsin’s Hmong population, according to a study published in the current issue of WMJ. In fact, they are 3.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, the study reports.

The study’s authors analyzed data from 964 Hmong and 412,908 non-Hispanic white patients from UW clinics throughout Wisconsin from 2007 to 2012. They found that the overall prevalence of type 2 diabetes in the Hmong population was over 11 percent (11.3), compared to almost 6 percent (5.97) in the white population. Among adults (more than 18 years old), 19.1 percent Hmong patients were at risk for diabetes, compared to just 7.78 percent of non-Hispanic white patients.

“The data also indicate the prevalence of diabetes stratified across age group, BMI (body mass index) category, and insurance type is significantly higher in the Hmong population than the non-Hispanic white population,” the authors wrote.

Diabetes also is being diagnosed at higher proportions in younger, thinner Hmong patients compared to their white counterparts, the authors noted. Over 7 percent of Hmong (7.45) of normal weight are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes compared to only 1.38 percent of whites.

The authors cited “change in environment” as one of several plausible explanations as to why Hmong patients are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. A large influx of Hmong immigrants from southeast Asia, which has low rates of diabetes, moved to the United States during the 1980s and 1990s after the Vietnam War. The 2010 U.S. Census counted 49,240 Hmong living in Wisconsin—the third largest Hmong-populated state behind California and Minnesota.

“The next step of research should be to obtain a large representative sample of the Wisconsin Hmong population to evaluate the disparity of diabetes prevalence between the general Hmong and non-Hispanic white populations,” the authors wrote. “Further research also should be conducted to explore the relationship of environmental change, genetics, and historical influences on the development of diabetes in the Hmong population.”

Published by the Wisconsin Medical Society, WMJ is devoted to the interests of the medical profession and health care in the Midwest. This peer-reviewed publication, which is available in print and electronic format, is one of the few state medical society-sponsored medical journals that publish a large amount of original research and academic content.