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Open Access Research article

Race/Ethnicity and gender differences in health intentions and behaviors regarding exercise and diet for adults with type 2 diabetes: A cross-sectional analysis

James R Gavin1, Kathleen M Fox2* and Susan Grandy3

Author Affiliations

1 Emory University School of Medicine, 1648 Pierce Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA

2 Strategic Healthcare Solutions, LLC, PO Box 543, Monkton, MD 21111, USA

3 AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, 1800 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19850, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:533  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-533

Published: 5 July 2011



Self-management is the cornerstone of diabetes control and prevention of complications; however, it is undetermined whether differences in intention to adopt healthy lifestyles and actual healthy behavior exist across race/ethnic groups. This study evaluated the differences across racial-ethnic groups in self-reported medical advice received and health intentions and behaviors among adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus.


A cross-sectional analysis of the 2007 SHIELD US survey ascertained self-reported health intentions and behaviors for regular exercise, diet, and weight management among Non-Hispanic Caucasian (n = 2526), Non-Hispanic African-American (n = 706), and Hispanic (n = 179) respondents with type 2 diabetes.


A similar proportion of respondents from each race-gender group (43%-56%) reported receiving healthcare advice to increase their exercise (P = 0.32). Significantly more minorities reported an intention to follow the exercise recommendation compared with Non-Hispanic Caucasians (P = 0.03). More Non-Hispanic African-American (29%) and Hispanic (27%) men reported exercising regularly compared with other race-gender groups (P = 0.02). Significantly more Non-Hispanic Caucasian women (74%) and Hispanic women (79%) reported trying to lose weight compared with other groups (P < 0.0001).


Differences in health intentions and healthy behaviors were noted across race-gender groups. More Non-Hispanic African-American men reported an intention to follow advice on exercising and self-report of exercising regularly was also higher compared with other race-gender groups. More Hispanic men reported high physical activity levels than other groups. Despite an increased willingness to follow healthcare recommendations for diet, >50% of respondents were obese among all race-gender groups.

type 2 diabetes; racial differences; exercise; weight management