Screen at 23: Identifying Undiagnosed Cases of Diabetes Among Asian Americans

Over half of Asian Americans with type 2 diabetes – and an even larger percentage of Asian Americans with prediabetes – are unaware that they have diabetes, according to new research.  In an effort to educate, treat and even prevent diabetes in Asian Americans, the campaign Screen at 23 was born.

ScreenAt23Screen at 23 is a national awareness campaign that calls for Asian Americans to be screened for type 2 diabetes at a body mass index (BMI) of 23 kg/m2. This campaign kicked off in San Francisco, CA and was initiated and endorsed by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), National Council of Asian and Pacific Islander Physicians (NCAPIP), Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Diabetes Coalition (AANHPI-DC) and Joslin Diabetes Center.

Aimed at physicians, healthcare providers and patients, Screen at 23 hopes increased awareness will uncover undiagnosed cases of diabetes among Asian Americans.

“A large portion of the Asian American community is unaware that they have diabetes or prediabetes at lower BMI than other ethnic groups,” explained George King, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Joslin Diabetes Center and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “To help curb the diabetes epidemic, we need to be more aggressive with screening so that we can treat and even prevent type 2 diabetes from developing.”

This campaign supports the ADA’s new guidelines for diabetes screening in Asian Americans. These new guidelines were based on recent research from Joslin’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative (AADI). Led by William Hsu, M.D., Vice President of International Programs at Joslin Diabetes Center and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School, this research shows that previous guidelines were unsuitable by overlooking a large portion of the Asian population at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

“Clinicians can see that Asian Americans are being diagnosed with diabetes when they do not appear to be overweight or obese according to general standards,” said Dr. Hsu. “What Screen at 23 does is to help us, as a society, identify those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes who might otherwise not have been identified because of their lack of appearance of obesity.”

Instead of starting screening for diabetes in those with a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or higher, which is what the general population is screened at, the ADA now recommends testing Asian Americans at a lower BMI of 23 kg/m2. The new guidelines are tailored to address the disproportionately heavier disease burden of diabetes in Asian Americans.

“These new guidelines are important since they are critical for making timely diagnoses of type 2 diabetes in Asian American populations,” commented Dr. King. “In addition to changing the guidelines, we also need to increase awareness and education among both patients and providers, and the Screen at 23 campaign is a crucial part of our awareness efforts.”

The research suggests that due to differences in their body composition, Asian Americans tend to gain weight around their waist, which is considered the most harmful area to accumulate weight from a disease standpoint.

For this and other reasons, Asian Americans are more likely to develop diabetes at a lower BMI and that is why screening is crucial for treating and preventing diabetes. Join the Screen at 23 campaign with these three easy steps:

  1. Calculate your BMI using the AADI’S BMI calculator tool
  2. At your next doctor’s visit, let your doctor know if you have a BMI of 23 or over, and mention the “Screen at 23” for Asian Americans campaign to discuss about your need to screen for diabetes
  3. Let your friends and families know about this campaign and urge them to find out their BMI

In addition to participating in the Screen at 23 campaign, the AADI is holding several events during the month of November, which also happens to be National Diabetes Awareness Month:

-There will be a diabetes and nutrition seminar at the Lexington Chinese School in Belmont, MA on Sunday, Nov. 8

-There is an Asian social cooking club at Joslin on Wednesday, Nov. 11

-The AADI’s Dim Sum for Diabetes event will be held at Empire Garden Restaurant in Chinatown, Boston on Friday, Nov. 13

-Lastly, there is a talk at the Diwali 201 event at Newton South High School in Newton, MA on Sunday, Nov. 15

To learn more or to join the Screen at 23 Campaign, click here.

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