Being Poor is a Risk Factor for Limb Amputation, Says Study

UCLA researchers are reporting in the journal Health Affairs that people with diabetes who live in low-income neighborhoods in California are as much as ten times more likely to lose a limb due to diabetes than people with diabetes who live in wealthier neighborhoods.

"Where the poor people are is where the amputations are," said lead author Carl Stevens, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, in one of the more disturbing quotes you'll hear from researchers this year. "This represents an intolerable health disparity.

Stevens and colleagues determined that in California there are so-called "hot spots" in which over 10 in every 1,000 diabetic adults over the age of 45 lose a lower limb due to complications from diabetes. They found some of the highest amputation rates in neighborhoods such as San Fernando, Compton, South LA and East LA. Meanwhile, some of the lowest amputation rates were found in places like Malibu, Santa Clarita, and Beverly Hills, where about 1.5 of every 1,000 people with diabetes lose a limb to the disease.

However, as terrible as this is, Stevens says that the study used data from 2009. He expects that the Affordable Care Act, which boosted the number of Californians covered through Medi-Cal, should provide significantly better access to health care to people living in these poorer areas. He added that great strides are already being achieved in this regard in California and that if they repeated this study two years from now, "We would see fewer disparities," he said.

Photo: Pre Diabetes Center, Tuscon Sentinel

A new study out of UCLA has found a connection between income and amputations among diabetics.