Diabetes Epidemic: Impact on Hispanic Lives

By Univision InSites Archives
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Editor’s note: This article is the second in an important seriesoutlining the need and rationale for effective -- and in fact, life-saving --  messaging to the Hispanic community.  Our series began with specific insights on the facts and figures that establish the value proposition for Direct to Consumer pharma advertising to reach this audience.  Here,  Deborah Dick-Rathexamines the alarming truth of how DTC represents a real  opportunity to help the growing population of Hispanics with Diabetes.

A Disease of Epidemic Proportions

When it comes to DTC advertising for diabetes medications, a huge percentage of Americans -- the Hispanic population -- is missing in action. Research shows that although Hispanics constitute a responsive market for diabetes medications, many are not being reached by advertising for these products.  There are a number of reasons, all of which are solvable.  But first, let's look at the numbers.


According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the world is experiencing a "diabesity" (obesity + diabetes) outbreak that is likely to be the largest epidemic in human history.  The sheer size of the Type 2 diabetes population is immense, with 425 million people diagnosed worldwide.

While Type 2 diabetes was not traditionally considered a "serious disease," statistics now reveal something graver:  Diabetes kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined, and it's getting worse.  Obesity and Type 2 diabetes are becoming increasingly common among both children and adults.  Moreover, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington recently issued a study showing that two billion people worldwide are overweight or obese.

Of course, Type 2 diabetes is treatable and there is a large, multi-billion-dollar industry of medications, monitors, pumps and devices available to help.  But, not everyone is being treated, or even getting the message that treatment is available.

Take the case of U.S. Hispanics.  They are twice as likely as non-Hispanics to suffer from diabetes (22.6 vs. 11.3 percent).  It is their fifth leading cause of death.  Even more frightening:  One in two Hispanic patients are not even diagnosed.

How DTC Can Help the Hispanic Patient

In 2017, five of the top 20 DTC advertised brands were diabetes medications.  They represented $480.3 million of the $6 billion spent.  Yet, only two brands conducted Hispanic advertising at discernible levels.  The lack of direct messaging to Hispanics about the disease and treatment options surely contributes to the large portion of undiagnosed patients in this category.

This creates a significant opportunity for diabetes pharmaceutical marketers to increase their messaging to the Hispanic population and be especially effective in local markets, such as Miami, Los Angeles and San Antonio, where Hispanics represent more than half of the overall diabetic population. Hispanic advertising could be a win-win for both the advertisers (in terms of increased revenue) and the Hispanic community (in terms of improved health).

Backing this up is the fact that levels of insurance coverage are growing three times faster for Hispanics than for non-Hispanics.  In fact, eight out of 10 Hispanics over age 18 now have health insurance.  And they are ready, willing and able to fill prescriptions for medications that can help them manage their disease.

It is important for diabetes marketers to recognize that Hispanics feel the need to preserve their language and culture.  Studies from Kantar Futures show that they appreciate businesses that communicate in Spanish and even say that they are more loyal to companies or brands that speak to them in their language.  In Rx terms, "loyalty" has a direct effect on compliance and adherence to medical treatments.  Again, this is potentially a win-win scenario to create healthier long-term patients and healthier long-term patient value.

A Positive Outcome

The Type 2 diabetes epidemic is a public health issue.  The levels of disease are unprecedented, surpassing even those of the Black Death, which wiped out 20 percent of the world's population in the 14th century.  The situation is exacerbated in the dynamic and growing Hispanic population, which has a higher prevalence of the disease and a larger percentage of people who have yet to be diagnosed.

With increased DTC diabetes advertising aimed at Hispanics, more people could be diagnosed and treated.  To use the clinical language of the medical community, this would be a "positive outcome."


  • JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) – Sept 8, 2015 
  • CDC Health, United States, 2016
  • 2015 APLD Optum Insights Based on Insured 19+
  • U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey 2016
  • Kantar Futures, 2017, Base: A18+
  • Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology; Paul Z. Zimmet, January 2017
  • ADA Infographic: The Diabetes Epidemic, 2018

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