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BMC Public Health. 2012 Sep 13;12:781. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-781.

Language barrier and its relationship to diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.

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  • 1Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore National Eye Centre, 11 Third Hospital Ave, #05-00, Singapore, 168751, Singapore.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Language barrier is an important determinant of health care access and health. We examined the associations of English proficiency with type-2 diabetes (T2DM) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) in Asian Indians living in Singapore, an urban city where English is the predominant language of communication.

METHODS:

This was a population-based, cross-sectional study. T2DM was defined as HbA1c ≥6.5%, use of diabetic medication or a physician diagnosis of diabetes. Retinal photographs were graded for the severity of DR including vision-threatening DR (VTDR). Presenting visual impairment (VI) was defined as LogMAR visual acuity > 0.30 in the better-seeing eye. English proficiency at the time of interview was assessed.

RESULTS:

The analyses included 2,289 (72.1%) English-speaking and 885 (27.9%) Tamil-speaking Indians. Tamil-speaking Indians had significantly higher prevalence of T2DM (46.2 vs. 34.7%, p < 0.001) and, among those with diabetes, higher prevalence of DR (36.0 vs. 30.6%, p < 0.001), VTDR (11.0 vs. 6.5%, p < 0.001), and VI (32.4 vs. 14.6%) than English speaking Indians. Oaxaca decomposition analyses showed that the language-related discrepancies (defined as the difference in prevalence between persons speaking different languages) in T2DM, DR, and VTDR could not be fully explained by socioeconomic measures.

CONCLUSIONS:

In an English dominant society, Tamil-speaking Indians are more likely to have T2DM and diabetic retinopathy. Social policies and health interventions that address language-related health disparities may help reduce the public health impact of T2DM in societies with heterogeneous populations.

PMID:
22974298
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3462107
Free PMC Article
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