Poverty and diabetes

In Holyoke MA the rate of diabetes is climbing toward 10%. The income level of the city is about half of the median income for the rest of the state. The obesity rate is 26% and for low-income pre-school children, it is over 12%.

I teach GED classes for parents who are trying to get better jobs for themselves and their families. Some have 2 or 3 jobs and still come to class. For some, their main exercise is walking to work in all kinds of weather. They eat at LOT of McDonald’s and chips and sugar snacks and soda. Eating well takes time and money OR education and planning.

Health educators are trying to make a dent, but the obstacles are very high.

One of my math classes each session is “Pringle Math.” We analyze the nutrition information on the side on a small tube of Pringles. (Percentage, division, addition, etc.) They are shocked by what they learn.

My grandmother developed Type 2 when she was older, after her children were able to contribute income to the household. “Now I can afford desserts I can’t eat them.” This was in the old days: NO SUGAR.

A declining economy and rising health insurance prices is the perfect petri dish for diabetes.

I never could quite grasp how eating at McDonald’s or eating chips was considered cheap. I don’t how prices run in MA but here in California McDonald’s is not cheap and a bag of chips cost at least $3.99 a bag. I always thought that if low-income Moms and Dads too could form a sort of cooking coop once a week they could get more bang for their buck. They could pool their food resources and get together to cook once a week and split the meals between them. This might not cover every meal but it seems like it should provide at least a few better meals. But I really blame the schools and their food programs. They don’t seem to know what it means to provide a healthy meal. In the school district where I live they decided a few years ago that ketchup was a vegetable. Please! How much ketchup would one need to eat to equal a serving of vegetables? Where are our county food extension offices. Why aren’t they out there advocating for healthier eating? I know that on occasion I have had to participate in the government’s food distribution. What we got once a month was mostly junk. As a diabetic I was looking at a box loaded with white rice, sometimes a box of sugary cereal, and oh yes the never ending candy bars. It just seems to me that there must be a way that low-income families are not forced to eat junk just to survive. I wish I knew what to do to help alleviate this problem, but I am at a loss. This problem really weighs heavy on my heart.

McDonalds has small burgers for a buck. Or a dinner of fries for a dollar. And a cookie for dessert. Lay’s or Doritos come in 99 cent bags. Fast food offers something very important: it’s fast. Easy to fit in between picking kids up and showing up for second shift. The coops are a great idea for people who have time and stability. Many of my students move around the city a lot. A few are homeless. I just wanted to point out that diabetes has causes beyond simply our individual bodies. Everything is interconnected.

Thanks Alice for setting me straight. I guess you can eat cheap at McDonalds. It just upsets me that in the greatest country in the world people are forced to live like this. We send so much money to oher countries while children in our own country go hungry. In the words of Bill O’Reily, you are a patriot. Thank you!

I think it has been proven :poverty is related to education ; and on top of this " illiteracy " …and not just in the USA …there is lots of work ahead !

I think that sometimes there is no way to cook and store food which makes it hard to get a well balanced diet. McDonalds dollar menu may be more affordable.

Nel, I think you are right. Holyoke’s schools are in danger of being taken over because of poor performance. This is not true of every school and some educators are coming up with an innovative “community education” centers for whole families. I hope that health education supplement the efforts of health centers.

Tu-ers, If there are health education centers near you that have focused on diabetes, think about giving them a call and see if they could use some help.

I stayed in US for 5.5 years and one thing i never understood was "why doesn’t the govt come up with some health standards for the food that is sold?? " I mean they set up 100 rules for business running and so many other things. All the govt has to do is just pass a simple law that restricts the amount of sugar and fat that can go into a meal!!! No offense but me (am from India)and some fellow students from china always felt the cookies in US were so Sweet!!!LoL!! I never understood the necessity of making every food item so sweet to taste!!!

Oh yes it’s hard when you have a small income. I’ve been a Type 1 for 37 years and in the last 5 I’ve had trouble comming up with the money to pay for things that are needed in treatment of Diabetes. One thing that has to be understood here is by the time you pay for the supplies (and in my case my husband pays for his meds due to a bad back and heart) sometimes you can’t afford to go buy groceries. I know I’m guilty of getting something to eat with what little money we have at sometimes a fast food place. Mainly b/c there’s just enough money to buy the 99 cent menu and not enough to buy the nessary grocires.

So good that you are working at bringing awareness Alice…
another immense contributing factor to the equation is depression. A sense of total hopelessness and lack of self worth.
Forever trying to dig yourself out of the whole while the walls a collapsing on you.
People say that eating healthy is cheaper…in the long term it is, but the initial cost is substantially greater.
When you only have $20. in your pocket…do you want to by a bag of unrefined whole wheat flour, raisins, oats, eggs and the likes to make batches of say muffins, though very healthy…the ingredients offer limited options…
or do you buy the canned ravioli on sale, the day old white bread, the reduced for quick sale muffins and baloney
that has yesterday’s expiry date. And that’s just the groceries.
My heart goes out to them, because I’ve walked in those shoes. As a child, my dad was a gambler and an alcoholic…earned a fantastic salary, but spent it all on booze and games. My mom left him when I was 11, and went to her family in Ontario…she was starting all over again with 5 young kids.
As a married adult, we scraped the bottom of the barrel for a while, my husband and I with our 2 very young children, when my husband’s business went belly up and we lost our house (the same I lost my mom to cancer)…that’s when I started having problems with my blood sugar.
Thank God those days are over…but, yes education/support is crucial and pivotal.
luv ya…linda

You are all so right, it is all connected. The businesses that moved all the manufacturing jobs out of this country to save money on salaries end up paying more for the people who no longer have a job and health insurance. We all pay for poor health. We need to have a restoration of the middle class. It is sadly disappearing.

God bless you for teaching the classes with some content in them that these parents can understand and use in different areas. The situation is all over the US (and abroad) money goes for other things, not for healthy foods, not for medicines that they can’t afford, or medical visits. It goes for food that will be spread around the family, a roof, and clothing…we in America are supposedly so blest, however, we take care of each other so poorly.