Houston Health Department

Diabetes a factor in more than half of Houston’s COVID-19 deaths

Houston Health Department observes National Diabetes Awareness Month

November 17, 2021

HOUSTON - More than half of Houstonians who died of COVID-19 had diabetes, the Houston Health Department announced this week to highlight its free diabetes self-management program and National Diabetes Awareness Month.

Of the city’s 3,646 COVID-19 deaths as of November 1, 2021, 51.9 percent had diabetes and 23 percent were obese. Hypertension was the most common comorbidity at 56.3 percent with heart disease at 40.1 percent and kidney disease at 25.8 percent.

Underlying health conditions make people more likely to suffer poor outcomes from COVID-19 infection. Getting vaccinated prevents serious illness, hospitalization, and death; it also helps reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Data clearly show that people with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, are more vulnerable to severe outcomes if they get COVID-19,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Houston Health Department. “That’s why our access and equity response strategy targets vital testing, vaccination, and education resources in areas of the city with increased prevalence of underlying health conditions.”

Data indicate that 13.5 percent of Houstonians have diabetes, slightly higher than the national rate of 10 percent. According to the CDC, more than 88 million adults are at risk of getting the disease.

The Diabetes Awareness and Wellness Network (DAWN), the department’s free diabetes education center, focuses on helping people diagnosed or at risk of diabetes develop self-management skills. It offers classes and support from the Third Ward Multi-Service Center and the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center.

“As we focus on diabetes awareness and prevention this month, resources like the DAWN Center are critical to the community,” said Dr. Faith Foreman-Hays, chronic disease director at the health department. “The center provides free behavioral support that aligns with what doctors recommend for preventing or managing diabetes to help improve quality of life.”

Classes offered at the center include nutrition, fitness, prediabetes prevention, and chronic disease self-management. The staff includes nurses, registered dieticians, fitness trainers, certified medical assistants, public health educators, counselors, and certified diabetes educators.

People with the chronic disease are encouraged to check blood sugar levels daily, keep blood pressure under control, and know cholesterol ranges.

A healthy diet, regular physical activity and taking medications as prescribed help prevent complications.

For a list of diabetes education activities this month and information on programs and services, call 832-393-4055 or visit HoustonHealth.org