Vice President of Science & Policy, Diabetes Canada
With 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes, the diabetes epidemic poses a greater challenge than ever before. We now know that adults living with the disease are at increased risk of complications if they contract COVID-19. They’re more likely to require hospitalization and approximately three times as likely to die of COVID-19 compared with those who don’t have diabetes. What’s more, this pandemic has disproportionately affected communities at higher risk of diabetes, including people living with multiple health conditions, seniors, Indigenous peoples, and Black Canadians.
Making a healthy life more accessible
The situation can seem overwhelming, but Diabetes Canada and its partners believe that we have opportunities to move onto a healthier path with Diabetes 360°. Diabetes 360° is an approach to managing the epidemic that offers a holistic view of health and illness with the goal to end diabetes and its impact through prevention and management.
It proposes to transparently share the progress made through every intervention. For example, Diabetes 360° supports team-based health care and the reallocation of resources for evidence-based programs to reduce Canadians’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes. At the same time, we need to create environments that support health rather than disease by stopping food and beverage marketing to kids, creating active living neighbourhoods for all Canadians no matter what their socioeconomic status, and making healthy eating the easier and more affordable choice for all.
Supporting the health of Indigenous communities
Among the most important things we can do to reduce the burden of diabetes in Canada is to support reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Colonialism and the residential school system have had long-lasting effects on Indigenous peoples’ physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health. In Canada, they’re one of the high-risk populations for diabetes and related complications. Barriers to care that are unique to Indigenous settings further exacerbate the prevalence and management of diabetes. These include fragmented health care, a lack of culturally-appropriate care, poor chronic disease management, high health care staff turnover, chronic underfunding of health services, and systemic racism. Equity benefits all Canadians.
In 2021, the world will recognize and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the life-changing discovery of insulin by Dr. Banting, Dr. Best, and their colleagues. They were able to offer a lifeline to millions of people around the world. We can’t wait another 100 years to improve the lives of all those affected by diabetes today.