Social status and the quality of care for adult people with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus – a population-based study


The objective of this study was to assess the degree of diabetes care and education achieved for Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus at the community level in relation to social status and to elucidate potential pathways that mediate any social class gradient. A population-based sample of 684 adults with Type I diabetes (41 % women, mean ± SD age 36 ± 11, diabetes duration 18 ± 11 years) in the district of North-Rhine (9.5 million inhabitants), Germany, were examined in their homes using a mobile ambulance. Results: HbA1c (normal 4.3–6.1 %) 8.0 ± 1.5 %, incidence of severe hypoglycaemia (injection of glucose or glucagon) 0.21 cases per patient-year; 62 % of patients had participated in a structured group treatment and teaching programme for intensification of insulin therapy; 70 % used 3 or more insulin injections per day, 9 % were on continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion; 91 % reported to have had measurements of HbA1c during the preceding year, and 80 % to have had an examination of the retina by an ophthalmologist. Care was insufficient with respect to the quality of blood pressure control (70 % of patients on antihypertensive drugs had blood pressure values ≥ 160/95 mmHg), patient awareness of proteinuria/albuminuria (27 % of patients had not heard about it) and prevention of foot complications (only 42 % with a diabetes duration over 10 years had remembered to have a foot examination during the preceding 12 months). There was a pronounced social gradient with respect to micro- and macrovascular complications (prevalence of overt nephropathy 7 vs 20 % for highest vs lowest quintiles of social class [OR 3.5, 95 % CI 1.6–7.5, p = 0.002]) and diabetes-specific quality of life. HbA1c, blood pressure and smoking accounted for part of the association between social class and microvascular complications. The social class gradient was not due to inequality to access to health services, but to lower acceptance among low social class patients of preventive and health maintaining behaviour. In conclusion, achieved standards of care are high with respect to the implementation of intensified treatment regimens, the level of patient education achieved, treatment control and eye care, whereas areas for improvement are blood pressure control and preventive measures for foot care. A substantial social gradient in diabetes care persists despite equal access of patients to health services. [Diabetologia (1998) 41: 1139–1150]

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Received: 29 September 1997 and in revised form: 8 April 1998

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Mühlhauser, I., Overmann, H., Bender, R. et al. Social status and the quality of care for adult people with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus – a population-based study. Diabetologia 41, 1139–1150 (1998).

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  • Keywords Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes
  • quality of care
  • diabetes education
  • late complications
  • HbA1c
  • hypoglycaemia
  • diet
  • cardiovascular complications
  • quality of life.