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Clin Transl Sci. 2009 Dec;2(6):413-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-8062.2009.00162.x.

Family networks of obesity and type 2 diabetes in rural Appalachia.

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Center for Clinical Pharmacology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


The prevalence of obesity and diabetes has been studied in adolescent and adult populations in poor, medically underserved rural Appalachia of West Virginia. A web-based questionnaire about obesity and diabetes was obtained in 989 family members of 210 Community Based Clinical Research (CBPR) trained adolescent members of a network of 18 science clubs, incorporating 142 families. After age-correction in < 20 years old, 50% of both adolescents and adults were obese. The frequency distribution of obesity was trimodal. In the overall population 10.4% had type 2 diabetes, while 24% of adult, obese subjects had type 2 diabetes. A new metric, the family diabetes risk potential, identified a trimodal distribution of risk potential. In the lowest most common distribution 43% of families had a diabetic family member. In the intermediate distribution, 69% had a diabetic family member, and in the distribution with highest scores all the families had a diabetic member. In conclusion, the poorest counties of rural Appalachia are at crisis level with the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. The distribution of age-corrected obesity and family diabetes risk potential are not normally distributed. We suggest that targeting individual family units at greatest risk offers the most efficient strategy for ameliorating this epidemic.

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