Diabetes continues to be one of the top health concerns in the city. Treating more diverse patient populations can create unique challenges, and that's especially true in areas like Queens, where nearly 50 percent of residents are from outside the U.S. As NY1’s Queens Week coverage continues, Health & Fitness Reporter Kafi Drexel has more on what doctors there are doing to meet the challenge.
At Queens Hospital's Center for Excellence in Diabetes Management, paying close attention to the needs of a diverse patient population and different cultural backgrounds has become a key factor in the approach to care.
“We have southeast Asian, we have Guyanese, we have Hispanics, we have African-Americans, so we have a diversity of patients,” says the center’s Dr. Isaac Sachmechi. “Each ethnic group, they have their own diet, different diets, different cultures that we to address when we see and treat these patients.”
It was knowing the right questions to ask about his background that Sradhanan Ramrattan, who first started getting treatment about a year ago after serious complications, says helped doctors get his diabetes under control.
“I'm a Hindu and we eat a lot of carbohydrates - rice, fruit, whatever it is - but it never led to much. Until recently, I came, I started to feel those symptoms, I came and I recognized that this was sugar,” he says.
The center treats nearly 5,000 patients a year for diabetes. Last year nearly 400 came with blood sugar levels dangerously off the charts.
Many of those patients didn't even realize they were diabetic. They say those facts alone indicate just how important it is to do outreach in this community.
“The main thing is to try to educate those patients so they understand their disease,” says Dr. Sachmachi. “Different populations, they have different attitudes toward the disease itself, so we have to educate them so they have the knowledge about the disease that they will be able to take care of themselves.”
“If they have an ethnic background they are not going to give up that ethnicity because that is not something they can change. So you have to help them adjust and adapt to the illness as well, and just basically you want them to stay healthy,” says diabetes educator Hildegarde Payne.
For Ramrattan, it's an approach to care he says is helping with the control of his diabetes and has turned things around for him completely.
“I wouldn't be able to sit down here and talk to you for any length of time. But now, I could go on for hours now,” he says.
- Kafi Drexel