From the Journals

Screening for diabetes at normal BMIs could cut racial disparities


‘The time has come for USPSTF to offer more concrete guidance’

“While there is more work to be done on carefully examining the long-term risk–benefit trade-off of various diabetes screening, I believe the time has come for USPSTF to offer more concrete guidance on the use of lower thresholds for screening higher-risk individuals,” Dr. Kazi told this news organization.

The author of an accompanying editorial agrees, noting that in a recent commentary the USPSTF, itself, “acknowledged the persistent inequalities across the screening-to-treatment continuum that result in racial/ethnic health disparities in the United States.”

And the USPSTF “emphasized the need to improve systems of care to ensure equitable and consistent delivery of high-quality preventive and treatment services, with special attention to racial/ethnic groups who may experience worse health outcomes,” continues Quyen Ngo-Metzger, MD, Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, Pasadena, California.

For other conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and infectious disease, the USPSTF already recommends risk-based preventive services.

“To address the current inequity in diabetes screening, the USPSTF should apply the same consideration to its diabetes screening recommendation,” she notes.

‘Implementation will require an eye for pragmatism’

Asked about how this recommendation might be carried out in the real world, Dr. Aggarwal said in an interview that, because all three minority groups with normal weight had similar diabetes risk profiles to White adults with overweight, “one way for clinicians to easily implement these findings is by screening all Asian, Black, and Hispanic adults ages 35-70 years with normal weight for diabetes, similarly to how all White adults ages 35-70 years with overweight are currently recommended for screening.”

Dr. Kazi said: “I believe that implementation will require an eye for pragmatism,” noting that another option would be to have screening algorithms embedded in the electronic health record to flag individuals who qualify.

In any case, “the simplicity of the current one-size-fits-all approach is alluring, but it is profoundly inequitable. The more I look at the empiric evidence on diabetes burden in our communities, the more the status quo becomes untenable.”

However, Dr. Kazi also noted, “the benefit of any screening program relates to what we do with the information. The key is to ensure that folks identified as having diabetes – or better still prediabetes – receive timely lifestyle and pharmacological interventions to avert its long-term complications.”

This study was supported by institutional funds from the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Center for Outcomes Research in Cardiology. Dr. Aggarwal, Dr. Kazi, and Dr. Ngo-Metzger have reported no relevant relationships.

A version of this article first appeared on


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