July 28, 2021

Research From Thrivable and the ADA Reveals Striking Public Health Impacts

Findings reveal that a lack of access to healthy food and medical appointments are worse for minority groups.

Cleveland, OH — According to a national survey released by real-time market research platform Thrivable in partnership with the American Diabetes Association® (ADA), people with diabetes reported financial, housing, food, and medical access challenges of crisis proportions and well beyond the impact on the public at large. 

Fully 7.6% of respondents said they had become temporarily or permanently homeless since the start of the public health emergency — a figure 48 times higher than the national average — while almost 16% went into default on mortgages and other debt or said they would soon be in default. That figure is about twice the national rate.

The disproportionate share of the adverse economic impact on people with diabetes has been felt by communities of color:

  • Some 47% of Native American respondents said they were in default or near it, while more than 20% of Black respondents faced this situation versus 14% of white respondents

  • Hispanic respondents reported being 26% more likely than white respondents to be in or near default on debt. 

  • Meanwhile, about twice as many Native Americans (14.3%) as white people (7.7%) became homeless since the pandemic began, while Asian Americans were 69% and Black people were 6.5% more likely than white people to have become homeless.

“People with diabetes — and particularly those in communities of color — continue to feel an alarming disproportionate impact as a result of the pandemic,” said ADA President and CEO Tracey D. Brown. “With the data indicating such devastating figures, the tremendous resource gaps between our community and the rest of the nation must be immediately addressed.” 

While low-income Americans reported far higher rates of homelessness and debt default, the survey showed that the economic strains have been serious even for those who earn $75,000 to $100,000 a year. Further, nearly 70% of those who reported having financial difficulty during the pandemic said a key cause was the cost of medical expenses, including the cost of medical care, prescription drugs, and diabetes supplies.

“Our initial research in partnership with the ADA last year showed how quickly and significantly the pandemic affected those living with diabetes,” notes Thrivable Research Lead Maria Muccioli, PhD. “The current study reveals that, even with a recovery underway, the long-term impacts are considerable and require an ongoing effort to provide much-needed relief to the countless Americans who are struggling to manage their diabetes.”

Other important findings among people with diabetes during the pandemic are:

  • An outsize number of those who became homeless since the pandemic are male (12.8% of men said they had become homeless), aged 25 to 34 (16.6%), and/or living with type 2 diabetes (9.6%)

  • Hispanic people living with diabetes were most likely to have missed health care visits — 54% more likely than white people — while Black respondents also missed more visits than white respondents. Though race did correlate with the likelihood of missing visits, income did not: Respondents earning $75,000 to $150,000 per year missed appointments over 40% more often than those with incomes between $15,000 and $74,999 per year. Of those who missed health visits during the pandemic, about a third said that a key cause was the lack of transportation. 

  • Nearly 19% of respondents say the pandemic greatly or somewhat reduced their ability to access healthy food, a situation that raises serious health concerns for a person with diabetes.  This challenge was substantially more acute for people of color: More than 52% of Native American respondents said they had some or a great deal of difficulty accessing healthy food since COVID-19 began, while nearly 26% of Asian American respondents and almost 21% of both Black and Hispanic respondents had these challenges. This compares to 17.6% of white respondents who said they had a hard time accessing healthy food.

  • White people are far more likely to see an endocrinologist or specialist to care for their diabetes, while Black people and Native Americans are the least likely to get care from a specialist.

While these facts are striking, they shouldn’t be surprising. Though the pandemic cast a bright spotlight on health disparities in the United States, they existed long before the outbreak. There’s much that can be done at all levels of government to bridge gaps in health equity and access, and the ADA urges both state and federal policymakers to help make #HealthEquityNow a reality for all Americans living with diabetes — irrespective of who they are, where they’re from, or what they look like.

The Thrivable results were based on a national online survey between June 11 and June 25, 2021, of more than 3,500 people living with diabetes. View the full report.

About Thrivable
Thrivable connects patients and companies to create better products and services for the next generation of health care. Our real-time market research platform makes it easy for patients to be their own advocates by sharing their insights, stories, and perspectives via surveys, interviews, focus groups, and usability studies. Health care companies turn to Thrivable to ensure the voice of the customer drives important business decisions every day. 

About the American Diabetes Association
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. The organization helps people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy, and education designed to improve their quality of life. To learn more or to get involved, visit the ADA at diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).

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