Study Finds Hypoglycemia Hospital Admissions Up at Month’s End
The number of California hospital admissions for hypoglycemia dramatically increases at the end of each month among low-income populations, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, the HealthyCal reports.
According to HealthyCal, about one in seven U.S. households is unable to consistently purchase food.
Many rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- also known as food stamps -- which averages $133 per month for each individual. However, individuals participating in the program often run out before the fourth week of the month.
Some individuals might be attempting to cut back on eating to pay for rent, utilities or other items, according to HealthyCal.
Details of Study
The Health Affairs study examined California hospital admission data from 2000 to 2008.
It found that among higher income populations, 200 of every 100,000 admissions were for hypoglycemia -- which cost about $1200 per admission in 2003.
However, low-income individuals admitted for hypoglycemia represented:
- 240 of every 100,000 admissions during the first week of the month;
- 260 of every 100,000 admissions during the second week;
- 290 of every 100,000 admissions during the third week; and
- 300 of every 100,000 admissions during the fourth week.
According to HealthyCal, attempting to eat less in order to save food stamps for other purchases can cause a "yo-yo-like rise and fall" of blood sugar in individuals with diabetes.
The study authors found that such changes in blood sugar can negatively affect health, such as by increasing the risk of:
- Kidney failure;
- Seizures; and
- Other complications.
Hilary Seligman -- a researcher at UC-San Francisco and the study's lead author -- said, "Something is happening recurrently within a month that is changing people's access to food ... [w]e suspect they are running out of money to eat."
Seligman called the data "just the tip of the iceberg" and noted that other health consequences could follow. She also said that some diabetics do not come into the hospital if they have hypoglycemic symptoms and instead try to treat the symptoms themselves, often with limited food choices.
Seligman said, "What we give to people under current benefits is not enough," adding, "From my perspective as a public health researcher, it's cheaper to make sure people don't get hungry than to deal with the far more expensive health care costs of not having access to food."
Tatiana Andreyeva -- director of economic initiatives at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity -- recommended providing SNAP beneficiaries the option to receive benefits more than once per month so that food can be more evenly distributed throughout the month (Waters, HealthyCal, 1/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.