Someone dies a diabetes-related death every 90 minutes in New York City, according to a disturbing new report out from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. That’s 11 percent of citywide deaths in 2011, or nearly double the proportion it was in 1990, when 6 percent of citywide deaths had diabetes-related causes.
The health department report also made note of the stark contrast in diabetes mortality rates across different city neighborhoods. While the overall death rate in New York City is on the decline, high-poverty neighborhoods generally saw nearly triple the number of diabetes-related deaths than affluent areas did. Some comparisons were even more extreme–Murray Hill, for example, had 19 diabetes-related deaths per 100,000 residents in 2011, while Brownsville racked up nine times that figure at 177 deaths per 100,000.
The news arrives on the heels of a new city ad campaign targeting flavored drinks. But while obesity remains one of the major “modifiable” risk factors for the disease, recent research has shown that the causes of obesity are far more complex than lack of exercise or ingesting fatty foods and sugary drinks. Last year, Columbia researchers who tracked more than 700 pregnant women at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Harlem Hospital found that children with prenatal exposure to air pollution were more than twice as likely to be obese by age seven. The Columbia study was one of the first to show that air quality could contribute to human obesity, casting doubt over the old assumption that getting rid of stuff like sugary drinks could provide a straight shot to eliminating the disease.