Language barrier and its relationship to diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.
BACKGROUND: Language barrier is an important determinant of health care access and health. We examined the associations of English proficiency with type-2 diabetes (T2DM) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) in Asian Indians living in Singapore, an urban city where English is the predominant language of communication. METHODS: This was a population-based, cross-sectional study. T2DM was defined as HbA1c ≥6.5%, use of diabetic medication or a physician diagnosis of diabetes. Retinal photographs were graded for the severity of DR including vision-threatening DR (VTDR). Presenting visual impairment (VI) was defined as LogMAR visual acuity > 0.30 in the better-seeing eye. English proficiency at the time of interview was assessed. RESULTS: The analyses included 2,289 (72.1%) English-speaking and 885 (27.9%) Tamil-speaking Indians. Tamil-speaking Indians had significantly higher prevalence of T2DM (46.2 vs. 34.7%, p < 0.001) and, among those with diabetes, higher prevalence of DR (36.0 vs. 30.6%, p < 0.001), VTDR (11.0 vs. 6.5%, p < 0.001), and VI (32.4 vs. 14.6%) than English speaking Indians. Oaxaca decomposition analyses showed that the language-related discrepancies (defined as the difference in prevalence between persons speaking different languages) in T2DM, DR, and VTDR could not be fully explained by socioeconomic measures. CONCLUSIONS: In an English dominant society, Tamil-speaking Indians are more likely to have T2DM and diabetic retinopathy. Social policies and health interventions that address language-related health disparities may help reduce the public health impact of T2DM in societies with heterogeneous populations.
Zheng, Y; Lamoureux, EL; Chiang, P-CP; Anuar, AR; Ding, J; Wang, JJ; Mitchell, P; Tai, E-S; Wong, TY
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