Sex Differences in Diabetes Prevalence, Comorbidities, and Health Care Utilization among American Indians Living in the Northern Plains

Kimberly R. Huyser, Jennifer Rockwell, Valarie Blue Bird Jernigan, Charlton Wilson, Tori Taniguchi, Spero M. Manson, Joan O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The American Indian (AI) population experiences significant diet-related health disparities including diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Owing to the relatively small sample size of AIs, the population is rarely included in large national surveys such as the NHANES. This exclusion hinders efforts to characterize potentially important differences between AI men and women, track the costs of these disparities, and effectively treat and prevent these conditions.

Objective: We examined the sex differences in diabetes prevalence, comorbidity experience, health care utilization, and treatment costs among AIs within a Northern Plains Indian Health Service (IHS) service unit.

Methods: We assessed data from a sample of 11,144 persons using an IHS service unit in the Northern Plains region of the United States. Detailed analyses were conducted for adults (n = 7299) on prevalence of diabetes by age and sex. We described sex differences in comorbidities, healtcare utilization, and treatment costs among the adults with diabetes.

Results: In our sample, adult men and women had a similar prevalence of diabetes (10.0% and 11.0%, respectively). The prevalence of CVD among men and women with diabetes was 45.7% and 34.0%, respectively. Among adults with diabetes, men had a statistically higher prevalence of hypertension and substance use disorders than women. The men were statistically less likely to have a non–substance use mental health disorder. Although men had higher utilization and costs for hospital inpatient services than women, the differences were not statistically significant.

Conclusions: In this AI population, there were differences in comorbidity profiles between adult men and women with diabetes, which have differential mortality and cost consequences. Appropriate diabetes management addressing gender-specific comorbidities, such as substance use disorders for men and non–substance use mental health disorders for women, may help reduce additional comorbidities or complications to diabetes.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)42-48
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue numberSuppl. 1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • diet-related disparities
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes mellitus
  • health services
  • American Indians
  • health care costs


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