Belgium: Immigrants more susceptible to diabetes

Belgium: Immigrants more susceptible to diabetes

People of other origins run 2-6 times more of a risk of developing type 2 diabetes than ethnics.  Type 2 diabetes is a disease closely tied to obesity, but bad eating habits are not the only causes.  The risk of diabetes type 2 is also determined by genes.

Antwerp doctor Güven Yildiz is researching diabetes among immigrants.  She says that in Belgium only an estimate can be made regarding the higher susceptibility of immigrants for diabetes, but she turns to data from the Netherlands.  Also according to the Flemish Diabetes Associations (VDV), this data can be extrapolated to Belgium.  In particular Surinamese, Hindus, Turks and Moroccans appear susceptible to the disease.

According to the VDV ethnicity is thus a risk factor.  But the hereditary tendency decides the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes and the age in which it develops.  Part of the explanation might be found in the difference in the habits with those in the land of origin: metabolism adapts to the surroundings.  In another surroundings it leads to problems.  Moreover, among people of other origin, diabetes develop several years earlier on the average than among ethnics.

Immigrants therefore also need precise information about this disease.  Muslims who have diabetes, for example, should not take part in Ramadan.  "Ramadan is a risk period," says the VDV.  "By suddenly dropping the normal treatment rhythm, there is more of a risk to increase or lower the blood sugar levels."  Also insufficient liquid intake is very important.  Fasting from sunrise to sunset and afterward eating a lot of fat and sugar-rich food, is bad for diabetes treatment.

While the Netherlands meanwhile launched preventative informative campaigns in Turkish, Arabic and Berbers, there are no nationally oriented campaigns for Belgian of other origins.  For a past few years VIG, the Flemish Institute for Health Promotion, also made specially adapted food triangles for the Turkish and Moroccan community, which include products like couscous, feta, buttermilk, dates, paprika, figs and pumpkins.  Moreover, the information in the related brochures is given in their own language, in addition to Dutch.  That is important because the campaigns directed at speakers of other languages should be culture-specific.

On the local level, there are also initiatives to work on communication with immigrant diabetes patients.  ZiekenhuisNetwerk Antwerpen (Hospital-Network Antwep) has an educational visual packet where language is not a barrier and everybody can learn to eat healthy.

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Source: GvA (Dutch)

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