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Diabetes program recruits African Americans (2/19/98)

During Black History Month (February), the Diabetes Prevention Program at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is recruiting African Americans, who are twice as likely as Caucasians to develop Type 2 (or adult-onset) diabetes.

"February is celebrated as Black History Month, a time to honor and learn from the past. It is also a time to create a new future - one without diabetes," said Minerva Resendez, recruitment coordinator for the Diabetes Prevention Project (DPP), which is a project of the department of medicine's division of clinical epidemiology at the Health Science Center.

"We are targeting the African American population for screening," agreed Maria Montez, special research coordinator in clinical epidemiology. "Apart from a higher risk of adult-onset diabetes, complications such as renal failure leading to kidney dialysis are especially prevalent among African Americans."

The DPP is a nationwide study co-sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Institute on Aging and the American Diabetes Association. Private sponsors include Parke-Davis. The DPP seeks volunteers to test a variety of approaches to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes and its devastating side effects. Volunteers may be asked to:

  • Exercise and eat healthy food;
  • Take pills that lower blood sugar and may help prevent diabetes;
  • Visit the DPP office on a regular basis over three to six years to have blood sugar, weight and blood pressure checks.
"This program looks at preventing Type 2 diabetes in people who are not yet diagnosed," Montez said. "We take into account risk factors such as family history, obesity, age, and occurrence of diabetes during pregnancy."

Most of the persons currently enrolled in the DPP are Hispanics, who are the focus of many of the Health Science Center's diabetes research studies and prevention programs. Montez and Resendez note, however, that African Americans, American Indians and even Asian Americans also are at increased risk for diabetes.

Participants are "randomized," or randomly assigned, to one of several groups. Some patients take no medication but meet on a weekly basis with research nutritionist/lifestyle coach Marissa Garcia to review eating and exercise patterns.

Other patients are placed in a group receiving the drug troglitazone, while others are assigned to a group taking the drug metformin. Both medicines are "insulin sensitizers" that help the patient's own circulating insulin to work more efficiently, Montez said. Still other patients are randomized to a group receiving a placebo (an inactive agent).

Of the 112 patients randomized to the study, only five are African American, s o the current push is especially important, Resendez said. The DPP has screened more than 5,000 individuals for diabetes since its inception a year and half ago.

The Health Science Center is one of 25 sites for the six-year national study. Steven M. Haffner, MD, professor of medicine in the clinical epidemiology division, is the principal investigator in San Antonio.

Screenings also include a check of cholesterol and other blood levels. Volunteers should be 25 years of age or older. For a free screening, call the DPP at (210) 567-4799.

Contact: Will Sansom, (210) 567-2570