Diabetes-related deaths hit all-time high in New York: Study

Diabetes-related deaths hit all-time high in New York: Study Photo credit: A couple drink soda beverages. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/GettyImages)

With a judge set to hear the city's appeal on the soda ban ruling, officials Monday released new figures showing an alarming increase in diabetes-related deaths.

The proportion of diabetes-related deaths out of the total number of deaths citywide increased nearly 5% between 1990 and 2011, according to data released by the city’s health department.

Health officials and experts say the increase, which is greater in some higher poverty neighborhoods, could be turned around.

"It is linked to our epidemic of obesity, and like obesity, it can be prevented," Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement.

In 2011, there were 5,695 deaths related to diabetes, an all-time high, compared to 4,436 in 1990, according to the data. Overall, the disease leads to one death every 90 minutes in the city, the Health Department said.

By comparison, overall deaths in the city dropped 28.5% during the same period from 73,855 to 52,789.

The city released the numbers one day before it was set to appeal the lawsuit that blocked its controversial ban on large sugary sodas.

Maria Moriarty, a Queens nutritionist and dietitian, said she wasn't surprised by the report because many New Yorkers are simply not educated when it comes to a healthy diet.

She added that economics plays a huge factor when it comes to battling diabetes saying many sufferers "don't have access to doctors or facilities that can cut down on the factors for a healthy lifestyle."

The Health Department's study showed a major discrepancy among New York neighborhoods. The majority of the top 10 neighborhoods with the highest rates of diabetes-related deaths in 2011 were in Brooklyn and the Bronx, with the highest being in Brownsville where 177 per 100,000 people perished from the disease.

Viola Greene-Walker, the district manager Community Board 16 in Brownsville, said the numbers troubled her but said the city has been working to find ways to get her residents healthier.

Aside from new health department advertisements and programs that promoted staying away from fatty foods, Greene-Walker said her community has needs to band to together to come up with solutions.

"We encourage folks to growing their own vegetables in the local gardens, it's become more popular," she said.

City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin -- one of the elected officials for Murray Hill, the neighborhood with the lowest diabetes death rate with 19 deaths per 100,000 people -- added that the city should continue to push for similar programs especially among the youth.

Lappin noted a pilot program at a Manhattan middle school called "Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools" that teaches kids the benefits of growing and eating fruits and vegetables is doing well and could easily be instituted in classrooms across the city.

"The goal is to teach these kids how to live healthier and that idea grows as they become adults," the councilwoman said.

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