Geographic distribution of diagnosed diabetes in the U.S.: a diabetes belt

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Apr;40(4):434-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.12.019.


Background: The American "stroke belt" has contributed to the study of stroke. However, U.S. geographic patterns of diabetes have not been as specifically characterized.

Purpose: This study identifies a geographically coherent region of the U.S. where the prevalence of diagnosed diabetes is especially high, called the "diabetes belt."

Methods: In 2010, data from the 2007 and 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were combined with county-level diagnosed diabetes prevalence estimates. Counties in close proximity with an estimated prevalence of diagnosed diabetes ≥11.0% were considered to define the diabetes belt. Prevalence of risk factors in the diabetes belt was compared to that in the rest of the U.S. The fraction of the excess risk associated with living in the diabetes belt associated with selected risk factors, both modifiable (sedentary lifestyle, obesity) and nonmodifiable (age, gender, race/ethnicity, education), was calculated.

Results: A diabetes belt consisting of 644 counties in 15 mostly southern states was identified. People in the diabetes belt were more likely to be non-Hispanic African-American, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and be obese than in the rest of the U.S. Thirty percent of the excess risk was associated with modifiable risk factors, and 37% with nonmodifiable factors.

Conclusions: Nearly one third of the difference in diabetes prevalence between the diabetes belt and the rest of the U.S. is associated with sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Culturally appropriate interventions aimed at decreasing obesity and sedentary lifestyle in counties within the diabetes belt should be considered.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • United States / epidemiology