Ultimately, the great hope for millions of people living with diabetes is a cure. “A cure would mean freedom to live healthy lives free from the effects of diabetes and to enjoy many of the everyday things that some Canadians take for granted,” says Michael Cloutier, president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Across the country, the Canadian Diabetes Association is leading the fight against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while it works to find a cure. The Association provides education and services, advocates on behalf of people with diabetes, supports research and translates research into practical tools to deliver on its mission.
In fact, more than nine million Canadians are currently living with diabetes or prediabetes, and if trends continue, that number will continue to climb rapidly. According to Dr. Jan Hux, chief scientific advisor for the Association, an analysis conducted in Ontario in 2005 showed an alarming 68 per cent increase in individuals living with diabetes over a 10-year period, far exceeding predictions. Another study found that almost 70 per cent of the province’s population had at least one major risk factor for the disease.
Diabetes is a silent epidemic that imposes a tremendous burden on the health of Canadians and has the real potential to threaten Canada’s future prosperity. In 2010, the disease cost about $11.7 billion – and the Canadian Diabetes Association projects that cost will rise to $16 billion by 2020. “It threatens the sustainability of our health-care system and could be potentially devastating in both social and economic terms,” says Mr. Cloutier.
“We currently have a great sickness-care system. But for someone with diabetes, there is no way that the appropriate acute care, prevention issues and attention to all of the risk factors that lead to complications can be addressed in the typical brief primary-care visit.”
Dr. Jan Hux
is the chief scientific advisor for the Canadian Diabetes Association
The aging of Canada’s population is one demographic driver for increases in the number of people living with diabetes, and improvements in life expectancy for people with diabetes are another contributor. “But more so, it is the behavioural changes of contemporary society that are a catalyst for increased risks such as a more sedentary lifestyle,” explains Dr. Hux.
Recent studies indicate that the neighbourhoods we live in are also an important but often overlooked risk factor. Research conducted at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, for example, found that residents of suburban neighbourhoods, “where there is nowhere to walk to and you’re forced to be dependent on a car,” have a 50 per cent higher risk of diabetes compared with residents of the most “walkable” neighbourhoods, says Dr. Hux. Other research indicates that workplace stress and lack of job control are contributing factors to diabetes risk in working-age women.
Mr. Cloutier stresses that socioeconomic status and where people live in Canada still significantly affect the ability of those with diabetes to manage the disease. “Affordability and access to diabetes medications, devices, supplies, public services and programs varies considerably across provincial jurisdictions,” he says. “Diabetes education, which is absolutely critical for effective self-management, is not uniform across jurisdictions, much less the entire country.”
Next March, the Association will release its updated clinical practice guidelines, integrating and distilling the best and most current research evidence about treating diabetes. This will help guide health-care professionals in their patient care from screening, prevention, diagnosis, care, management and education for type 1, type 2, gestational diabetes and prediabetes. But tackling the burden of diabetes also requires a significant shift in government and private sector involvement, as well as widespread individual and societal change, says Mr. Cloutier.
Transforming health care delivery from an acute-care model to a chronic-care framework presents an enormous challenge to policy-makers working to reduce health-care spending, says Dr. Hux. But ignoring the challenge may actually cost more, she adds. “We currently have a great sickness-care system. But for someone with diabetes, there is no way that the appropriate acute care, prevention issues and attention to all of the risk factors that lead to complications can be addressed in the typical brief primary-care visit.”
Policy changes can also help improve outcomes by ensuring access to medications, she says. “Drug therapies for managing blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure work together to reduce the complications of diabetes, but a recent survey suggested that 58 per cent of people with diabetes skipped medication because they can’t afford it.”
The good news is that it is possible to reduce the impact of diabetes and increase the quality of life and life expectancy for people living with the disease. In fact, about 80 per cent of diabetes costs are attributable to its devastating complications, which include amputations, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, joint problems and infections. With recent advances in treatment, these complications are largely preventable today. “If managed correctly, under the supervision of a professional health-care team, people with diabetes can lead healthy and productive lives,” Mr. Cloutier notes.
“We are closer to finding a cure than ever before, and that would change the world for absolutely everyone,” he adds.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month: What would a cure mean to you?
With more than nine million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes, chances are, many Canadians know someone living with the disease.
To mark Diabetes Awareness Month, the Canadian Diabetes Association is introducing the “What a Cure Means to Me” campaign. The goal? To give a voice to people living with diabetes in communities all over the country.
Getting involved in the campaign is easy. Visit www.whatacuremeans2me.com to register, and post a story from October 10 to November 30, 2012, to be eligible to win a dream vacation or other exciting prizes courtesy of the presenting sponsor. Family and friends can show their support by sharing posted stories with their online communities and by making a donation.
Across the country, the Canadian Diabetes Association is leading the fight against diabetes by helping people with diabetes live healthy lives while we work to find a cure.
To share your story and connect with other people living with diabetes, visit www.whatacuremeans2me.com.
For more information, visit www.diabetes.ca
join us on www.facebook.com/CanadianDiabetesAssociation
follow us on Twitter@DiabetesAssoc or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).