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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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New Mexico State University students participate in diabetes survey

Twenty New Mexico State University students, employed by the university's Bureau of Business Research, are helping to carry out a binational study of diabetes along the U.S.-Mexico border.

oject that began in April and will last through September, the students are visiting homes in Dona Ana County to survey residents about diet, exercise, family history of diabetes, ethnicity, access to health care and information about how to control the disease, said Kevin Boberg, director of the bureau.

Rosalba Ruiz, binational coordinator of the survey for Pan American Health Organization, said the study was launched following a 1997 meeting between health officials from the 10 states on the U.S.- Mexico border. Comparing information at the meeting, the officials were shocked to find that death rates from diabetes per 100,000 people are higher in the border area than at the national levels of either country, she said.

Furthermore, people on the border appear to be getting diabetes at younger ages, she added.

"Whereas 20 years ago we found that the average age of the onset of Type II diabetes -- the type that results from improper diet and other risk factors -- was 40, we are now finding that average age has dropped to 30 and it is beginning in children as young as 12," she said.

Ruiz said data from the survey will be used to design a plan for improving diabetes health care on both sides of the border. The plan will address improved health care services, community awareness of the problem and improved patient self-management, she said.

Boberg said the students are visiting towns throughout the county and plan to concentrate on Las Cruces in August. The student teams -- usually two people -- who visit homes are bilingual and the surveys are confidential, he added.

The students will ask a participant to answer a 40-minute questionnaire and will take measurements of the person's blood pressure, height, weight, and waist and hip circumference. An appointment will be made for a blood sample to be drawn by a licensed phlebotomist. All participation is voluntary and participants will receive a $10 payment, he said.

In addition, if the test results show a participant may have high blood pressure or diabetes, he or she will be notified of the problem within a month of the interview. If the survey coordinators feel a participant should see a doctor, he or she will receive a letter explaining the test results or can be visited by a lay health adviser who will explain the results, Ruiz said.

"The plan we hope to develop marks the first time in history that a border has been considered a single epidemiological unit. It requires coordinating the effort with more than 50 health-care-related organizations in both countries," Ruiz said.

The surveys already have been completed in California and the Mexican states of Baja California, Sonora, Nueva Leon and Tamaulipas. They are still being carried out in New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, she said.

"The students who work for us at the Bureau of Business Research carry out a number of surveys throughout the year, but they are especially enthusiastic about this one," Boberg said. "Not only does this work get them out into the community, but it gives them a chance to do something that will really make a difference for the better."

Jack King
July 31, 2002