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9 Mar 2024

The rising prevalence of type 1 diabetes in minority populations

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March 9, 2024 Category: Health Posted by:

Sponsored by Sanofi

Ariel (Lawrence) Sarpeh was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes right before her 16th birthday — a realization she describes as being both intimidating and clarifying.

“At first, I thought ‘OK, I got this. It’s relatively straightforward and I am a good student. I just have to remember that my doctor told me to be mindful of my blood sugar and what I consume,’” Sarpeh explains of her early years living with type 1 diabetes. “It wasn’t until much later that the reality of type 1 diabetes really set in.”

Sarpeh had no family history of type 1 diabetes and no one in her circle of friends had it, either. So, like many, she turned to the internet for information — and for connection. However, as a Black woman, Sarpeh often struggled to connect with people who she could truly relate to and who could empathize with her experience.

“I noticed there weren’t a lot of people of color being vocal about their journey with type 1 diabetes,” she notes. “Particularly as a Black woman, I’m part of a community where type 2 diabetes is very prevalent and better understood, but I struggled to see my own story being reflected.”

While type 1 diabetes is still the most common among White people under the age of 20, it is on the rise across many age and ethnic groups. In fact, the steepest increases in annual incidences of the disease among people under the age of 20 in the U.S. between 2002 and 2015 were among non-Hispanic Blacks (2.7%). Also compelling, non-Hispanic Black children under the age of 18 specifically were found to have higher instances of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) at diagnosis, compared to other cohorts. DKA is a serious, sometimes life-threatening complication that can have a severe and sudden onset.

While type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented, it can be detected early through autoantibody screenings – underscoring the importance of disease awareness to reduce the likelihood of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications at diagnosis. This was exactly the ethos behind Sarpeh’s blog and Instagram page “Just a Little Suga’” — and why she got involved in The 1 Pledge with Sanofi.

As Sarpeh mentions, “I knew I wanted to tell my story as a Black woman with type 1 diabetes and speak out about the importance of disease awareness. While I was fortunate to recognize my symptoms early, more must be done to reach Black and Brown communities that are often overlooked, especially when it comes to type 1 diabetes.”

Now is the time to work to increase the understanding of type 1 diabetes in minority populations by underscoring the importance of early screening for the disease. “Information is a tool of empowerment,” Sarpeh explains. “By spreading the word about type 1 diabetes screenings, we can help others gain early insight into their disease, allowing them time to better prepare and make well-informed choices about how to proceed.”

To learn more about how you and your family can get screened for type 1 diabetes, visit:

Sanofi does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment-information is provided for educational purposes only. Your doctor is the best source of health information. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your health or treatment.
Ariel (Lawrence) Sarpeh is a paid spokesperson for Sanofi.

(Photo courtesy Alfred Sarpeh)

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