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Community-Based Screenings Help People Who Don’t Know They Have Diabetes

By Rosalind Lucier

Community-based screenings for diabetes are an important tool that can help identify people living with diabetes who may not yet know it yet

Screenings for diabetes and prediabetes are critical to identify people who have not yet been diagnosed. Many people with type 2 diabetes do not show early symptoms – because of this, they can remain undiagnosed for years. A survey in New York City found that 3.8% of New Yorkers were living with undiagnosed diabetes – that’s almost 320,000 people just in one city. This is alarming because the longer a person remains undiagnosed and is not able to manage their blood sugar, the more their risk for health complications increases. That’s why screenings are necessary – to educate people about their health and prevent the serious consequences of undiagnosed diabetes. 

Diabetes screenings are often conducted by a healthcare professional at regular check-up appointments. A typical screening involves a risk assessment questionnaire (like this one from the CDC) and a blood glucose test. For your blood test, you may be given a fasting plasma glucose test (measuring blood glucose levels after you’ve fasted for at least eight hours) or an A1C test (to measure your average blood glucose level over the last three months). 

Community-based diabetes screenings, on the other hand, aim to test far more people than what is possible during an appointment with a healthcare professional. Community-based screenings focus on people who do not have health insurance or do not regularly see a healthcare professional. These screenings are usually carried out in places that are central to the community, where people feel comfortable and do not have to travel far out of their way. For example, screenings may be conducted at churches or community centers.

One study reported the results of a community-based diabetes screening of Black men at Black-owned barbershops in Brooklyn. Black men often experience disproportionately higher rates of diabetes and delays in diagnosis due to the disparities that are present in healthcare in the United States. Shockingly, the study found that 9% of the men screened had diabetes and 28% had prediabetes. This is a clear example of why screening for diabetes is necessary, especially in populations that may not have regular access to healthcare. 

We hope to see more community-based screenings in the future to identify people living with undiagnosed diabetes or prediabetes. These screenings also provide an opportunity to educate people about how to manage their diabetes and improve quality of life. Unfortunately, community-based screenings are not standardized and can vary from place to place. If you or a loved one are looking to be screened and have access to a healthcare professional, ask them if they can perform a screening. Another option is to see if your pharmacy, such as a , can screen for diabetes or prediabetes. Finally, spread the word about the importance of getting tested for diabetes and encourage loved ones who may be at risk to consider getting screened. 

If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes, visit our newly diagnosed resource page.

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