Diabetes has hit a crisis level on First Nations reserves, says the president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association.
As Diabetes Awareness Month kicked off, CDA President and CEO Rick Blickstead talked to Winnipeg radio station 680 CJOB about the increasing problem of diabetes in Manitoba, and focused on the province’s 130,000 strong First Nations population, 60 per cent of whom live on reserves.
“Our First Nations across this county are highly susceptible to diabetes,” said Blickstead. “In some cases on reserves, fifty percent of young children will have diabetes by the time they are twenty years old.”
A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal supports Blickstead’s assertions, but suggests the problem may even be worse. Published in September, the study from the University from Calgary examined 70,631 First Nations and 2.7-million non-First Nations people aged 18 years or older and found the lifetime risk of diabetes at the age of 0 years was 75.6% among men and 87.3% among women in the First Nations group, as compared with 55.6% among men and 46.5% among women in the non-First Nations group.
“These findings coupled with the observations that younger people had a higher lifetime risk of diabetes than their older counterparts indicate the importance of early mobilization of preventive measures against the development of diabetes among First Nations people,” say the study’s authors.
But what are the reasons for the higher rates of diabetes? Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer at the Canadian Diabetes Association says it may be explained primarily by environment, not genetics or a lack of exercise.
“For First Nations communities in rural areas, food security may be a real challenge,” Hux told CTV News. “Their local store may carry very few fresh fruits and vegetables and what’s there may be unaffordable.”
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According to the CDA, 9.3 per cent, or 3.4-million Canadians had diabetes in 2015. The association says it expects these numbers will rise to five-million cases, or 12.1 per cent of the population by 2025.
Canada’s crisis mirrors a worldwide problem. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of people with type 2 diabetes in growing in every country on earth, with the number of cases expected to grow from 387-million to 592-million by 2035.
The IDF says diabetes is responsible for 11 per cent of the total health spending for adults worldwide. People with diabetes are more than twenty times as likely as the general population to be hospitalized for a non-traumatic lower limb amputation and three times as likely to be hospitalized with cardiovascular disease.
“With a staggering one in three Canadians already living with diabetes or prediabetes, including an estimated 1.5 million with undiagnosed diabetes, we must take action now to stop the growth and impact of this disease,” says Blickstead. “Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day are times to shine a spotlight on diabetes, educate Canadians about the disease, and help all of us find out our level of risk for type 2 diabetes so we can take action.”