More Than 25% Of Chamorros In CNMI Living With Diabetes

Commonwealth rate of disease is 50% higher than rest of United States

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 15, 2017) – The CNMI remains at the top of the list of U.S. states and territories with the highest rates of diabetes, health advocate and Non-communicable Disease Alliance president Dr. Don Hardt said.

“I consider it very alarming because so many of our people are dying at a young age and many people are on dialysis,” he said.

Hardt, who was the guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Saipan’s weekly meeting at the Hyatt’s Giovanni’s Restaurant on Tuesday, discussed the results of a survey conducted from January to April 2016 among 1,091 households on Saipan, Rota and Tinian.

“We have a terrible diabetes problem,” he said.

In the U.S., 12.5 percent of the adult population or one in every eight people have diabetes while in the CNMI 18.7 percent have diabetes.

The survey also showed that 25.3 percent of the Chamorro population and 21.9 percent of Carolinian population have diabetes, he added.

“This is double the rate in the U.S.,” he said. “It’s not just that we have more diabetes, the diabetes that we have is much worse.”

Pacific islanders, he added, have a higher rate of being overweight and obese than any of those residing in the 50 states, except American Indians living in Ohio, he added.

He said to avoid diabetes, people should participate in outdoor activities and exercise.

Hardt said he was officially certified as a diabetic educator by the American Diabetes Association which has also certified his Hardt Eye Clinic.

According to Hardt, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is one of the factors behind the high diabetes rate.

He said there are many studies demonstrating the link between sugar-sweetened beverages consumption and diabetes and obesity, adding that the rate of sweetened-beverage consumption in the CNMI is much higher than in other places in the U.S.

“It would make a huge difference if we switched to water,” he said.

Hardt said he will again push for legislation imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that was opposed by local businesses and vetoed by the governor.

“The governor mentioned specific issues that must be addressed so we hope to bring that bill back again,” he added.

But according to Chen Zhen, Ph. D., a research economist at the non-profit research institute RTI International, “Instituting a sugary-beverage tax may be an appealing public policy option to curb obesity, but it’s not as easy to use taxes to curb obesity as it is with smoking. Consumers can simply substitute an untaxed high calorie food for a taxed one. And, as we know, reducing calories is just one of many ways of promoting healthy eating and reducing nutrition-related chronic disease.”

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