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UCI launches innovative initiative to address diabetes in the Latinx community

Collaboration will focus on prevention, research and treatment of the deadly disease

September 29, 2023
alpesh amin wearing white coat standing in front of uci health douglas hospital
“Health treatment is a shared responsibility, and by working
together, we will be able to achieve visible and measurable
outcomes,” said Dr. Alpesh Amin, who will lead the
diabetes initiative.

Orange, Calif. — The University of California, Irvine has launched an initiative to address the toll diabetes takes on Orange County’s Latinx community and ensure greater well-being for a population that is disproportionately affected by the disease.

The initiative, developed in collaboration with the UCI–OC Alliance, is rooted in three elements: prevention, research and treatment. As a world-class public research institution, UCI is uniquely equipped to develop the educational, clinical and research-based resources necessary to advance this collaboration’s mission.

“This is the beginning of an exciting journey toward a healthier future in the Latino/a community,” said Dr. Alpesh N. Amin, Thomas and Mary Cesario Endowed Chair of the Department of Medicine in the UCI School of Medicine and associate dean for clinical transformation.

“Our aim is to alter the way diabetes healthcare is managed and improve the well-being of Orange County’s growing Latino/a population.”

Death, disability and underdiagnosis

A leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., diabetes has become a public health issue.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2019, more than 37 million Americans had diabetes and another 96 million had prediabetes. Every year, the disease now causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined. One in five people with diabetes do not know they have it.

Diabetes' disproportionate impact

Diabetes affects the Latinx community disproportionately. Almost 40% of its adult population is currently diagnosed with the disease, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC also notes that Latinx:

  • Have higher rates of diabetes-related kidney failure and vision loss
  • Have a greater than 50% likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes over their lifetime
  • Are more likely to have prediabetes
  • Are developing type 2 diabetes as adults at a younger age

Expanding access to treatment, prevention

The diabetes initiative is designed to enhance healthcare delivery, expand access to quality treatment, and foster a culture of preventive care, said Amin, who will lead the effort.

“Health treatment is a shared responsibility, and by working together, we will be able to achieve visible and measurable outcomes,” he said.

Designated as a Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education in 2017, UCI has embraced the opportunity to engage with the region’s Latinx community to address health concerns.

The initiative’s steering committee, comprised of UCI health specialists, five members of the alliance and other community leaders, recently approved initial recommendations tied to prevention, research and treatment:

  • Organizing dance exercise classes by partnering with UCI’s dance groups and other community organizations
  • Reconstituting UCI’s Diabetes Group Medical Visitation Program and group education sessions
  • Research ways to make the UCI Health electronic medical records messaging system more effective in improving the standards of care and the risk profile for diabetic patients

Amin said the vision is for these initiatives to be followed by other health activities focused on the Latinx community, and further engaging with the local community and other non-UCI health organizations.

Commitment to world-class clinical care and research

UCI Health, the university’s clinical enterprise, has deepened its commitment to providing leading diabetes care.

The UCI Health Diabetes Center is the region’s only comprehensive academic diabetes center. This summer, U.S. News & World Report included the UC I Health Diabetes and Endocrinology program among the top 50 in the country.

The university’s commitment to research is also critical in moving the needle. Stimulated by support from the UCI Diabetes Research Executive Council, UCI’s endocrinologists and diabetes experts have received seed funding in the areas of prevention and treatment. Such funding supports research that may attract further support from the National Institutes of Health. An NIH award was recently renewed to support the efforts of UCI endocrinologist Dr. Qin Yang and Dr. Wei Li in the department of bioinformatics in studying epigenetic regulation of insulin production.

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About UCI Health

UCI Health is the clinical enterprise of the University of California, Irvine, and the only academic health system in Orange County. Patients can access UCI Health at primary and specialty care offices across Orange County and at its main campus, UCI Medical Center in Orange, Calif. The 459-bed, acute care hospital, listed among America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for 23 consecutive years, provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation services. UCI Medical Center is home to Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program and American College of Surgeons-verified Level I adult and Level II pediatric trauma center and regional burn center. UCI Health serves a region of nearly 4 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About the UCI-OC Alliance

Established in 2021, the UCI-OC Alliance supports UCI as a Hispanic-thriving university. Trustee-guided and university-driven, the Alliance is a community organization that serves Orange County by connecting local leaders and businesses with UCI to advance Latinx students through mentorships, scholarships, internships, program support, corporate partnerships, special events and initiatives and networking opportunities. Learn more by visiting UCI-OC Alliance.

About the University of California, Irvine

Founded in 1965, UCI is a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report. The campus has produced five Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 224 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $7 billion annually to the local economy and $8 billion statewide. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.