By Ling-Mei Wong 黃靈美
Joslin Diabetes Center kicked off the Screen at 23 program for Asian American diabetes awareness April 3 at the South Shore YMCA.
State Rep. Tackey Chan said, “Standards used today to diagnose diabetes do not reflect our population. It’s important to get help before it’s too late.”
Screen at 23 raises awareness about Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ (AAPI) increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes at lower body mass index (BMI) levels. The Massachusetts Statehouse passed a resolution on Jan. 22, urging the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and health providers to screen Asian Americans for diabetes at a BMI of 23, which is a lower screening BMI than for Caucasian Americans.
“Diabetes is when the sugar in your blood is too high,” said Dr. George King, Joslin’s chief scientific officer. “It is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and the leading cause of heart disease. For Asian Americans, diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.”
Dr. King added no other ethnic group developed diabetes at low body weights like the Asian American community. He joked, “This is terrible, as Asians have the best food.”
One out of two Asian Americans have diabetes mellitus or have prediabetes, said Karen Lau, Joslin dietitian.
JP Fuji owner and restaurateur Jimmy Liang said, “We’re small business owners and don’t make a whole lot of money, but we try to give back to the community.” JP Fuji donated food for the meeting and gives more than $80,000 a year to charity.
The South Shore YMCA’s patrons are 25 to 28 percent Asian, said Paul Gorman, South Shore YMCA president and CEO. With 120,000 square feet, the spacious facility welcomes many Asians, who often come as entire families to work out. It has an existing diabetes prevention program and will implement Screen at 23 for AAPI members, giving culturally specific diet advice and tips.
The Screen at 23 campaign is coordinated by the National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians, Joslin Diabetes Center, and members of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Diabetes Coalition.