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Pittsburgh: Bhutanese have more health problems

Posted by Ann Corcoran on January 14, 2014

Last week we reported on the mental health issues plaguing America’s 70,000-strong Bhutanese refugee population and now according to reporter Erika Beras, here at New America Media, it seems they are also being plagued by diabetes they got after arriving in America.  Type II diabetes is associated with too much weight gain.   Sure is a good thing Obamacare has come along to take care of them!

And get this!  Pittsburgh now has 4,000-5,000 Bhutanese (mostly Hindu) refugees.   That population growth is only since 2008!

Bhutanese family in Pittsburgh sees first snow! Reporters love these refugee snow stories!

From New America Media:

On a typical weekday morning, 47-year-old Tek Nepal is moving about the Mount Oliver duplex he shares with his wife, sons, daughter-in-law and grandchild.

He works nights, so he gets his family time in the mornings. And often, that time centers around eating. Those meals used to consist of lots of starches. But since a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis last year, they have changed.

“I don’t eat rice at all. I don’t eat potatoes. I try to eat a lot of green vegetables like lettuce, spinach … carrots, and I don’t eat totally fried things,” he said, showing off a chart of appropriate foods on his kitchen wall.

Nepal is ethnically Nepalese. He was resettled in California as a refugee, moved to Tennessee, then Pittsburgh, which has a lower cost of living and boasts a growing Bhutanese-Nepalese population. Before coming to the U.S., he spent 17 years in refugee camps in Bhutan.

About 4,000 to 5,000 ethnically Bhutanese-Nepalese refugees call Pittsburgh home. Having migrated in the last six years, it’s a new population that is falling into an old immigrant paradox.

Nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes, and another 79 million are pre-diabetic, up sharply over the last few decades. Included among those statistics are newer Americans, people such as Nepal who came here as refugees. According to a study published in the journal Human Biology, an immigrant’s risk of obesity and hypertension — indicators of diabetes — grow with every year they are here.

At the Squirrel Hill Health Center, a federally qualified facility that provides the bulk of initial and follow-up care to refugees, Chief Medical Officer Andrea Fox is perpetually busy. She spots trends in her patient population. Rarely do the Bhutanese come to the U.S. with a diabetes diagnosis, but they’ve found a high prevalence of the disease in those they treat.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention monitors refugee populations. Among their priority health conditions for the Bhutanese are anemia, B12 vitamin deficiency and mental health. They haven’t been tracking diabetes numbers.

There is a lot more.  Check out the nice kitchen!

See our ‘health issues’ category for 191 previous posts on refugee health problems.  We have them all—HIV/AIDS, TB, intestinal parasites, mental health issues, and now diabetes.

2 Responses to “Pittsburgh: Bhutanese have more health problems”

  1. […] This is another in a series of articles written by reporter Erika Beras and published here at the local NPR station.  We have mentioned previously two of Ms. Beras’s excellent investigative reports, here and here. […]


  2. Brittius said

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Bhutans have more health problems. Hmmm…


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