Weekend reading: Diabetes, race, and class
Arleen Tuchman. Diabetes: A History of Race and Disease. Yale University Press, 2020.I did a blurb for this book:
This is a superb, deeply researched history of the role of racism and class bias in perceptions of type 2 diabetes. Its root causes? Poverty and discrimination—a new vision for a prevention agenda.
Tuchman does for type 2 diabetes what historians of other diseases have done: explore the central role of race and racism. Racism, she explains, can
Generate ill health by producing pathological responses to the stress of living in a society in which skin color is endowed with privileges denied to others. Racism, in other words, can make people sick. In this way, racism—not race—becomes a fundamental cause of differential disease rates, making it impossible to draw a sharp line between what is biological and what is social.
As she documents, health professionals first viewed diabetes as a disease of the Jews—perhaps because they went to doctors more often. It took decades for scientists to distinguish type 1 from type 2 diabetes, and more decades to recognize that its higher prevalence among non-white minority groups might be due to the obesity-promoting diets and lifestyles of poverty.
For documentation of the social determinants of health, this book is an instant classic.