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U of M studies take a closer look at diabetes in the Somali community

Throughout Diabetes Awareness Month, Health Talk has examined several studies taking place at the University of Minnesota aimed at combating the condition.

Today, we wrap up our coverage by taking a closer look at the effect of diabetes on the Somali community.

According to recent census data, Minnesota has the largest Somali population in North America. With such a strong presence in the community, Muna Sunni, M.B.B.Ch., a University of Minnesota pediatric endocrinology fellow, and Antoinette Moran, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the University of Minnesota Medical School have launched the “Understanding diabetes in Somali children in the Twin Cities, Minnesota: A pilot study.”

The study seeks to examine whether Somali children with diabetes have the same genetic risk factors for diabetes as children of other ethnic backgrounds across the U.S.  The study also wants to determine whether or not Somali children have the same diabetes autoantibodies found in children of other ethnic backgrounds across the U.S.


Muna Sunni’s research is looking to find a better understanding of the prevalence of diabetes in the Somali community.

In addition to potential diabetes biomarker information, the study includes a survey designed to help researchers learn more about the cultural and/or religious beliefs of families of children with diabetes, and is using responses in diabetes education to target specific misconceptions. Several leaders and volunteers from the Somali community are actively working on the study, too.

In another study that will begin soon, Sunni is again is working closely with Antoinette Moran, M.D., as well as Carol Brunzell, R.D., interpreters and members of the Somali community to study popular Somali foods and use this information to develop resources for patients of Somali origin that are specifically tailored to meet their needs.

“To date, little information has been published about diabetes in the Somali population,” said Sunni. “With higher than average rates of diabetes in the Somali community, it’s even more important to study this population.”

Sunni believes that more studies need to be done to examine diabetes in the Somali community.

“With greater participation from the Somali community, we will be able to gather more information and this should eventually lead to a better understanding of the prevalence of diabetes among the Somalis.”


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