Monday, September 8, 2014

Mexican Americans at increased risk for obesity and diabetes!

In the study Socioeconomic Status and Prevalence of Obesity and Diabetes in a Mexican American Community, Cameron County, Texas, 2004-2007 and driven by Susan P. Fisher-Hoch and her peers, we learn some attributes consistent with the Mexican American community of Cameron County. Indeed, when it comes to obesity and diabetes, this special community on the Mexican American border appears to have differences with Americans. In fact, the research has discovered that Mexican Americans are more likely to be obese or to develop diabetes than others.
The method to carry out this study was based on a cohort on the US-Mexican border in the city of Brownsville, Texas. Susan P. Fisher-Hoch and her research group wanted to discover if any minor socio-economical advantages would affect the risk of obesity and diabetes for the Mexican American population of Brownsville. Thus, on the basis of 2000 census data, they divided the Mexican American population of Brownsville into four strata differing by their annual income. Then started inviting all the households from the selected census blocks to participate in the study. The selected census blocks refer only to the first strata, the “lower income” ($17,830 or less) and the third strata, the “higher income” ($24,067 to $31,747). They finally randomly pick one person from each household in order to participate in this study.
Following the selection process, the participants were asked to take a battery of tests such as blood analysis, blood pressure, blood glucose level, insulin level, height and weight measurements, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
When they had all the data they needed, they ranked the participants by household income and decided to select the top and bottom quartiles in order to obtain a wider difference in household income than the one provided by the use of the full census data. Therefore, the comparison was made between the top 202 participants and the bottom 202 participants on the household income’s basis.

What about GIS?
It gets interesting when they visualized the spatial distribution of households by income with the geographic information system. They collected via Global Positioning System the longitude and latitude coordinates of households and geocoded them on ArcMap 8.3.
The result is relevant. Effectively, it shows a map with two main cluster well defined. We can observe a tendency for the “lower income” to be close from the border whilst the “higher income” is further from the border and more spread out. We can easily imagine the land cost being the cause of this spatial distribution.

Obesity at its best
The results of the research provide important information concerning Mexican Americans health. Firstly and surprisingly, they found no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes between the two different socio-economical stratospheres’.  On the other hand, the numbers do indicate a serious health issue that must be addressed.
More than 50% of the participants are obese and 8% of them are morbidly obese.  That is 1.4 times higher than numbers reported nationally for Mexican Americans.
A fourth have diabetes and nearly one in ten participants of the “lower income” were informed through this study that they have diabetes. In fact, 78% of the participants did not have health insurance and, most likely, because of their incomes being too low for them to procure one.
We could question where is the equitable health care system? Should health care be accessible for everyone? Mainly when you know that “In 2006, more than 20 million Americans were estimated to have type 2 diabetes and by 2050, the number of US patients with diagnosed diabetes is projected to rise to 39 million." We need to understand the dramatic issue of this important health matter touching the Mexican American community, especially in Brownsville, Texas.

Reference: Fisher-Hoch SP, Rentfro AR, Salinas JJ, Pérez A, Brown HS, Reininger BM, et al. Socioeconomic status and prevalence of obesity and diabe- tes in a Mexican American community, Cameron County, Texas, 2004-2007. Prev Chronic Dis 2010;7(3). http://www. Accessed [9/7/2014].


  1. That's so interesting that there wasn't much difference between the classes. You would imagine that having less income they would have to buy alot more processed, canned, and generally not fresh food.

  2. I wonder if GIS methods like this could be used to compare places that have universal health care with places that don't (while accounting for socio-economic status).