The Mil Familias research program will engage up to 1,000 Hispanic/Latino families in California facing type 2 diabetes to study the many factors that contribute to high rates of diabetes in this population.
More about social and cultural factors of diabetes in Latinos
In the United States today, type 2 diabetes is twice as high among Latinos compared to non-Latino whites. Latinos suffer from more complications related to diabetes as a result. Why is diabetes so much more common in Latinos? To answer that question, the new Mil Familias (milfamilias.sansum.org) research program at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute studies five different contributing factors: genetics, biology, behavior, psychology, and society/environment. It is common knowledge that our biology and genetics play a big role in diabetes risk. However, Mil Familias also looks at social and cultural factors that impact risk of type 2 diabetes. For example, these factors include ethnicity, education, income, culture, and where you live.
Unfortunately, Latinos are not well represented in current research studies or among our nation’s doctors and nurses. For example, Latinos are only 1% of clinical trial participants in the US, and only 5% of doctors in California. Mil Familias aims to change that by engaging trained, trusted community members. These members will work with up to 1,000 Latino families impacted by type 2 diabetes.
Community health workers are very effective teachers of nutrition and physical activity information. This is especially true for Latinos with diabetes. As a result, each Mil Familias participant works with a specially-trained, trusted bilingual community health worker known as an “Especialista.” The Especialistas recruit participant families, collect data, and even refer families to outside community resources, all at no cost to participants. Over time, Especialistas will collect a lot of data specific to Latinos across the 5 main diabetes risk factors (genetics, biology, psychology, behavior, society/environment). For example, the Especialistas conduct health assessments, help participants with lab analysis, equip participants with Fitbits, and apply surveys and questionnaires. The information collected is already helping us understand the factors that contribute to diabetes in Latino families.
Photo courtesy of Mil Familias © 2018