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Hispanicsalud

By David Mendosa

Last Update: January 4, 2002

Update February 9, 2009:
This website seems to have disappeared at least at this address. If you know where it is now, please let me know.


The dot-com era didn't end last year. While many large Web sites imploded, many lean sites are still in the game.

Hispanicsalud.com is an excellent example that shows how even a small staff can make a difference. And few dot-coms have ever been smaller than this valuable site.

Few groups have a higher prevalence of diabetes.

Managing the site is Maria Gomez in Austin, Texas. When I pointed out to her that I would have liked an "About Us" page, her reply was persuasive.

"I don't have an About Us page because this site is designed and maintained by me, myself, and I," Maria replied. She also writes a lot of the pages, but her sister, Irma Rodriguez, contributes many of the articles. She is a nurse who lives in New York City.

"We are not a company, just two sisters who want to bring essential information in the area of medicine to the community," Maria says. "I have a full-time job, so does she, so I try to bring new things to the site as frequently as I am able to. My background is in desktop publishing, and in the real world I am a communications specialist. I am married and have four children, so you can see that I am pretty busy."

Hispanicsalud.com is dedicated to providing Hispanics with health-related information, especially about diabetes, which is prevalent in Hispanic communities. Most of its pages are in English, although several are also in Spanish.

Other sites aimed at Hispanics with diabetes have come and gone. But this is now the only one aside from sites in Latin America and Spain.

"Part of the reason we started the site is because our mother has diabetes," Maria told me. "She has had several problems, including the amputation of one leg."

Neither Maria or Irma have diabetes. But their mother had 15 children, four of whom had diabetes.

Few groups have a higher prevalence of diabetes than Hispanics. According to a study reported in the February 2001 issue of Diabetes Care, the Hispanic diabetes prevalence in 1999 was 8.0 percent. Among all adult Americans it was 6.9 percent. The only large group with a greater prevalence was the African American population, where it was 9.9 percent.

Among Hispanic subgroups, however, there is a lot of variation in diabetes prevalence, largely because of genetic differences. Hispanics have three groups of ancestors—Spaniards, American Indians, and Africans. Both American Indians and Africans have high rates of diabetes.

The genetic makeup of Mexican Americans, who comprise 58 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, is 40 percent American Indian or African, according to "Origins of U.S. Hispanics: Implications for Diabetes" in the July 1991 issue of Diabetes Care. Among Puerto Ricans, who comprise 10 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, the percentage is 56 percent American Indian or African. Cuban Americans, who comprise 4 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, are genetically only 39 percent American Indian or African.

Five population studies conducted in the past two decades provide the majority of information we have about diabetes among Hispanics. However, only one of these studies, the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HHANES) conducted in 1982-84, provided data on differences among the three major Hispanic subgroups. The prevalence of diabetes was two to three times greater for Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans than for non-Hispanic whites surveyed at that time. In Cubans, the prevalence was similar to that for non-Hispanic whites.

That survey indicated that 26 percent of Puerto Ricans between 45 and 74 had diabetes, even higher than the rate for Mexican-Americans, which was 24 percent. "Whether or not Puerto Ricans truly have the highest diabetes prevalence of the three major Hispanic subgroups is not entirely clear," says Dr. Michael Stern, professor of medicine at the University of Texas and the lead author of "Diabetes in Hispanic Americans," chapter 32 of Diabetes In America, 2nd edition, 1995. "Their excess over Mexican Americans in HHANES was not particularly great."

Still, the rate of diabetes among Puerto Ricans is one of the highest in the world. No wonder than Maria and Irma, who are of Puerto Rican descent, are concerned.

They continue to expand the site. Maria, who is completely bilingual in English and Spanish, says she will translate more pages into Spanish when she can find the time. Since she is a working mother, that won't happen as fast as it might have with a large dot-com. But they are still standing. 


The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.


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