Diabetes reaching epidemic levels, says doctor

Bonnie Belec bbelec@thetelegram.com
Published on April 8, 2014
Theresa Gale, a diabetes educator nurse at the Janeway Children’s Hospital, signs the Diabetes Charter for Canada which was unveiled Monday across the country. The document was created to bring awareness to the growing number of people being diagnosed in Canada, which has hit the three million mark.
— Photo by Bonnie Belec/The Telegram

More than 50,000 people are living with diabetes in Newfoundland and Labrador and it isn’t slowing down, a gathering was told Monday morning.

According to statistics provided by the Canadian Diabetes Association Newfoundland and Labrador, another 88,500 are living with symptoms which may eventually lead to the onset of Type 2 diabetes. Research has shown about 50 per cent of those will eventually be diagnosed with diabetes.

“The concern is the fact that it is increasing despite all of our efforts and has almost reached an epidemic level,” said Dr. Pradip Joshi, clinical chief of the medicine program at Eastern Health.

“We really need better strategies to deal with it,” he said.

Joshi said one part of that plan is the Diabetes Charter for Canada which was unveiled across the country Monday including an event in St. John’s.

The idea is to empower Canadians with diabetes and their caregivers, while also providing governments with a standard of care to ensure there is comparable support for people living with diabetes across the country.

“In Newfoundland, because we have such a high rate of obesity and diabetes we really need to make a concerted effort to get it under control,” said Joshi.

“The charter will be an important aspect of that. It’s a partnership. If we can get everyone together it will certainly make an impact on it and the complications associated with diabetes,” he said.

Statistical information from the association says the costs associated with those complications will be more than $280 million this year and projected to reach $335 million in 10 years if the disease isn’t managed.

“One of the biggest concerns if you have diabetes is risk of cardiovascular disease goes up tremendously,” said Joshi.

“About 70 per cent of patients die from cardiovascular. That is a huge burden for people and the state so I hope the charter will focus on that and help us to mobilize groups to help improve it,” he said.

Of the 57,600 people diagnosed in the province, only 2,741 are Type 1 — when a person is insulin-dependent because the pancreas isn’t producing enough or none at all.

People with Type 2 are not insulin dependent and sometimes the disease can be controlled with lifestyle changes.

However, some people do receive medication to treat their symptoms if they can’t manage it through exercise and diet.

 “We talk about both, Type 1 and Type 2, but in Newfoundland it’s mostly Type 2 which is very high, though we do have some increase in Type 1, the  majority are middle-aged patients with Type 2,” said Joshi.

“But over the last 10 years we’ve been seeing a lot of younger patients with Type 2, patients in their 20s, and 30s, and that has to do with inactivity, obesity and all kinds of other issues,” he said.

Carol Ann Smith, the association’s regional director for the province, said the charter gets people talking about it, the stigma associated with it and an awareness that people aren’t alone.

“It provides a shared voice and a common vision for people living with diabetes in Canada,” she said.

A year in the making, Smith said the charter outlines the rights and responsibilities for those living with the disease, as well as the responsibilities of governments who are part of the fight to treat it and help get it under control.

According to a news release, health and patient charters exist in about two dozen countries, including Canada. They describe the rights and responsibilities of a specific population and serve to drive improvements in programs and the delivery of health services.

To sign the charter, go to mydiabetescharter.ca.