Cedric related that African-American adult diabetics suffer more severely than their white counterparts
No Laughing Matter
It is fairly common for those African-Americans who have reached superstar status through athletics, singing, or comedy to be criticized by the black community for their failure, not inability, to address the myriad maladies afflicting the black community. Far too often, this charge of ignoring issues within the African-American community is valid in regards to the vast majority of black stars/starlets. For such individuals, they have seemingly not found a cause to champion.
All too often, the causes and issues that we choose to champion have entered our lives in an unexpected manner. Such was the case when I began to actively support the fight against breast cancer after one of my most beloved cousins succumbed to the disease prior to her 40th birthday. Comedian extraordinaire Cedric “The Entertainer” has found himself pulled into a similar cause as a result of his father, who was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes four years ago, experiencing horrible bouts with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, a condition that is commonly referred to as diabetic nerve pain.
During a recent interview with African-American News and Issues, Cedric recalls that “my dad, being the strong unshakable Black man never mentioned the pain that he was experiencing with anyone in the family. However, over time it became clear that there was something wrong. My father always kept his yard immaculate. He personally cut his own grass and pruned his own bushes on his corner lot. Although we initially attributed the decline of the yard from its pristine state to his age, I was alarmed when he began using a riding lawn mower to cut his relatively small patch of grass.” Equally alarming for Cedric was watching his father cut back on one of his favorite pastimes, golfing. “Instead of playing 18 holes of golf as we normally did. He would seek a rest after only seven or eight holes.”
It was only after visiting his doctor did Cedric’s father learn that what he was experiencing was diabetic peripheral neuropathy (diabetic nerve pain) and that the condition was treatable. Cedric related that he was shocked to learn that twenty-percent of the people with diabetes experience the burning, pins-and-needles shooting pain that most often occurs in their feet and hands.
As previously mentioned, the causes that individuals champion often enter our lives in unexpected, yet highly personal, ways. Although Cedric “The Entertainer” superstar status lends to him having a relatively notable platform from which to speak, his voice would be exponentially magnified as a result of his association with the medical company Pfizer. Cedric recalls, “I was working on millionaire and Pfizer was one of the largest purchasers of commercial time. The idea of this campaign (to fight diabetic nerve pain) came about during a dinner that I had with representative of Pfizer. After hearing my story about my father, we agreed to collaborate with the American Diabetes Association. Out of that collaboration came the Step on Up movement.
The Step on Up movement seeks to educate the entire nation, particularly the 29 million Americans who are currently suffering from diabetes, about diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Cedric is convinced that there is a desperate need for such a movement as he reasons that if his father, whom he is extremely close to, would not share his struggles with diabetic nerve pain with anyone, including his doctors, there must be thousands of others who are experiencing the same thing. According to Cedric, “the initiative is first and foremost aimed at empowering those suffering from diabetic nerve pain to address the matter with their doctor.” Marjorie Cypress, PhD, CNP, CDE, President, Health Care & Education, American Diabetes Association. “This program will help provide resources for people living with diabetes to learn more about diabetic nerve pain, assess their symptoms and encourage them to talk with their health care provider about steps they can take to better manage their pain.”
As with most health issues in America, non-white populations suffer disproportionately. Cedric related that African-American adult diabetics suffer more severely than their white counterparts in regards to diabetic nerve pain. In fact, one third of those aged 40 years and above suffering from this troubling condition is African-American or Hispanic. Incredibly, African-American adults are 70% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic white adults. Sadly, 60% percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputation that are performed on people over 20 years of age are associated with diabetes.
According to Cedric, “A major aspect of what the African-American community is fighting against is cultural. My father is part of an era where men did not complain, they served as the rock for their family, regardless of the cost; even to the detriment of their health. So going to the doctor was one of the last things on their agenda. Of all the traditions that our community has maintained, this is one of the most dangerous because annual physicals and examinations are not a part of our routine…We often behave as if we are not told about medical problems that they do not exist.” It is this position that says awareness and information from a medical profession leads to a decline in health and eventual death that most frightens African-American men.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the year of 2011, 16% of those living with diabetes were diagnosed between the ages of 18 and 39 years of age, so early check-ups and detection are imperative for all, regardless of age.
Cedric “The Entertainer” proudly related that the Step on Up campaign has been a tremendous success amongst the African-American community. “It is appearing that our community simply needed a reasonable way to access this information for them to engage this process. It has been a bit surprising to see how well the site has been received.”
When asked if there was one wish that he had for African-American males in regards to their health, Cedric related that “we need to recognize that it is smarter to have the proper knowledge, rather than guessing and trying to medicate ourselves via home remedies and what have you…Ultimately, this process is about guaranteeing that we are all here for a very long time to see our children and future generations grow.”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III