Research led by Kevin Thao, MD, MPH, UW Department of Family Medicine and Community Health residency graduate and faculty in the Wausau Family Medicine Residency Program, found that the adjusted risk for Type 2 diabetes in Hmong adults in Wisconsin is more than three times higher than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

Kevin Thao, MD

Kevin Thao, MD, MPH

The study, published in the October 2015 issue of WMJ, used data from the University of Wisconsin (UW) Public Health Information Exchange (PHINEX) database.

Specifically, it analyzed de-identified health and demographic information on 504,799 unique ambulatory care patients at UW Health primary care clinics from 2007-2012. Of those 504,799 patients, 412,908 (81.8%) were identified as non-Hispanic whites and 964 (0.19%) as Hmong.

The data showed that the overall prevalence of diabetes among Wisconsin Hmong adults is 19.1%, significantly higher than the overall prevalence of 7.78% in the non-Hispanic white population.

It also showed that, after adjusting for age, sex, BMI and insurance status, the relative risk of diabetes is 3.3 times higher for Hmong adults than for non-Hispanic whites.

Key findings:

  • Data on 504,799 de-identified patients analyzed: 412,908 (81.8%) non-Hispanic whites and 964 (0.19%) Hmong
  • Overall prevalence of diabetes among Wisconsin Hmong is 19.1%, compared with 7.78% among non-Hispanic whites
  • Adjusted relative risk of diabetes is 3.3 times higher for Hmong than for non-Hispanic whites

The study supports previous findings that the Hmong, Wisconsin’s largest Asian population, are at significantly increased risk for developing diabetes.

Although the study was not designed to determine the causes for the increased risk, Dr. Thao explains in the article that changes in environment affect populations migrating from developing countries to affluent ones. Focus groups of Hmong have indicated that the change in environment leads to lack of physical activity and poor diet, factors that can lead to the development of diabetes.

For health care professionals, the study also supports previous recommendations that physicians should screen for glucose intolerance in Hmong patients starting at lower ages and lower BMIs.

Published: April 2016