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Obese and Sedentary Southern States Make Up CDC Diabetes Belt


A region of the Southeastern United States was given a title of “the stroke belt” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back in the early 1960’s. Researchers with the health agency have noted that many of those same states also have a high incidence of Type 2 diabetes, so they have identified 644 counties in 15 states that are now aptly named “The Diabetes Belt.”

The data was collected using information from the 2007 and 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and county-level diagnosed diabetes prevalence estimates. Diabetes rates in the Belt was 11.7% versus 8.5% for the rest of the country.

“Diabetes is similar to stroke in that it is strongly affected by behavioral, cultural and environmental factors clustered and overlaid on genetic susceptibility,” write the researchers from the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

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The researchers identified four other factors that distinguish the “Diabetes Belt” from the rest of the US. Almost 33% of the people in those counties were classified as obese, compared to 26.1% of the rest of the country. Over 30% were also more apt to lead sedentary lifestyles. Demographically, the population of the diabetes belt counties contains substantially more non-Hispanic African-Americans and fewer had college degrees.

The Diabetes Belt includes counties in portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The states that overlap into the Stroke Belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

“Identifying a diabetes belt by counties allows community leaders to identify regions most in need of efforts to prevent type 2 diabetes and to manage existing cases of the disease,” says Lawrence E. Barker, PhD, a statistician at the CDC. “Although many risk factors for type 2 diabetes can’t be changed, others can. Community design that promotes physical activity, along with improved access to healthy food, can encourage the healthy lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

The research is published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Journal Reference:
Barker LE. Am J Prev Med. 2011;doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2010.12.019.