Researchers Map Diabetes Around Houston

Officials want to increase prevention efforts in the hardest-hit areas.


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Stephen Linder
UT School of Public Health Professor Stephen Linder is leading research efforts for Cities Changing Diabetes.

Houston is the first in the U.S. to join Cities Changing Diabetes, a global effort to combat the disease in urban areas. So far, Copenhagen and Mexico City have also joined the three-year project.

The hypothesis is that where a person lives impacts their lifestyle, which ultimately determines their risk for diabetes.

Using data from the 2010 Health of Houston survey, researchers at the University of Texas mapped out which parts of the city have the highest rates of diabetes. Stephen Linder is a professor at the UT School of Public Health. He says researchers will try to identify risk factors by approaching the issue geographically.

“Normally when you read about diabetes, you read about demographic kinds of disparities,” Linder said. “We want to be able to talk more about areas that are at risk, and understanding how prevention works in the context where people actually live.”

Linder says the highest concentration is in the Fifth Ward, which accounts for 20 percent of all diabetes cases in Houston. He says researchers will conduct in-person interviews with residents to determine what puts them at risk. Based on those findings, they’ll determine what resources would help prevent diabetes.

Stephen Williams is the director of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services. He says the project will help health officials act.

“We are hoping that they will assist us in gathering critical information that we will use to develop an action plan, and I want to underscore an action plan, because this is something that we have talked about a lot, but we need to do more,” he said.

Stephen Williams
Stephen Williams, director of Houston Health and Human Services, discusses how officials will use data from the project

The project is funded by Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company that specializes in diabetes care. Lars Sorenson is the CEO of Novo Nordisk. He says it’s the right thing to do.

“Even though it would hurt my company, but I’m here to tell you the situation is already so dire, Novo Nordisk as a company is not going to suffer from this,” he said. “In fact, being associated with diabetes for over 90 years, we have seen the devastating impact diabetes can have. So we have as a responsibility to stop this to the extent that we can.”

Sorenson says he chose to launch the U.S. effort in Houston because of its extensive healthcare network. The company is talking with UT to determine the amount of funding it will commit to research in Houston. The findings are set to be published in 2015.


Editor’s note: The words “mapped out” formally contained a link. It was removed because the link on the UT School of Public Health website is no longer active. 

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