PAMF Receives $2.5 Million Grant for Groundbreaking Asian-American Diabetes Study
Study will inform physicians and policymakers on how to prevent and treat diabetes in different Asian ethnic groups
PALO ALTO, Calif., January 26, 2009 - The Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s (PAMF’s) Research Institute has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct a five-year study on diabetes and its risk factors among the six largest Asian ethnic groups in California – Asian Indians, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.
“By the end of the study, we hope to gain a much better understanding of what puts certain Asian ethnic minorities at greater risk for diabetes, one of the most costly and prevalent chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Latha Palaniappan, M.D., M.S., principal investigator for the study. “The study also holds substantial promise for clinicians and policymakers as we will offer information and recommendations on how to identify and target high-risk Asian populations for diabetes prevention, treatment and management.”
Diabetes, a chronic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels, occurs at significantly higher rates among blacks and Hispanics than among whites – a documented health disparity. Asians, although they consist of more than 30 ethnic groups from more than 20 countries of origin, have always been grouped together in previous diabetes studies and reports. Therefore, the prevalence of diabetes and related risk factors, such as obesity, remains largely unknown in specific Asian ethnic groups.
“In some of our preliminary studies, we’ve seen that certain Asian ethnic groups, such as Asian Indians and Filipinos, are at much higher risk for diabetes than others,” said Dr. Palaniappan. “These findings reinforce the need to study Asian subgroups separately instead of grouping these diverse populations together. We’re also hoping the study will have an international impact because we’re studying racial/ethnic differences in how our bodies metabolize insulin and glucose in a similar environment.”
The Pan Asian Cohort Study (PACS), as the study will be called, will examine existing clinical records of more than 60,000 Asians in California for diabetes risk, the largest Asian-American cohort ever assembled for a study. The study will include examination of the medical records, minus any personal identifiers, of PAMF patients.
“We want to assure patients that we will only have access to information in their health record that enables us to conduct this important study,” said Dr. Palaniappan. “We are very careful to follow all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations and patient confidentiality guidelines.”
PAMF’s electronic health record (EHR) system, in place for nearly a decade, allows researchers a unique resource to better understand variations in treatment for diabetes, identify best practices and recommend ways to improve care both inside and outside of the organization. In addition to reviewing existing medical records as part of the study, researchers will use the EHR system to select and follow a group of patients over more than a decade to further study diabetes risk factors that may be unique to Asian Americans.
PACS will also study how obesity should be defined for Asians, because it is the most important risk factor for developing type II diabetes. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended lower body mass index (BMI) cutoff points to define people of Asian descent worldwide who are overweight and obese. The PACS study results could indicate that the recommendations should be different for Asians living in the United States.
“Traditionally, Asian-American minorities have received less medical research attention than other racial/ethnic minorities and studies focused on Asian Americans have received less than one percent of federal research funds,” said Dr. Palaniappan. “Asian Americans make up more than 25 percent of the Bay Area’s population alone, and this NIH grant allows us to conduct what we believe is a truly groundbreaking study.”
For more information about the study and preliminary findings, visit www.pamf.org/pacs.
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