An important milestone in the efforts to address the diabetes epidemic in Canada was reached on October 5, 2022, when federal Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, tabled the Framework for Diabetes in Canada. This step capped several years of advocacy by Diabetes Canada in collaboration with more than 100 groups and individuals from across the country.
Diabetes Canada has long called for concerted action to improve prevention and treatment for this chronic disease, which affects 11.7 million Canadians (with pre-diabetes and diabetes) and costs the health-care system almost $50-million to treat every day.
Diabetes Canada applauds the progress the Framework represents while calling on governments to continue the momentum with tangible actions and investments.
According to Laura Syron, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada, the Framework moves us closer to answering the key question: “If Canada really wants to tackle diabetes care, what are the concrete steps to make that a reality?”
“The National Diabetes Strategy set out a vision for better health outcomes related to diabetes, and now we are moving beyond that promise with a roadmap for action,” says Ms. Syron. “I’m excited because we are on the cusp of real change. Governments have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something transformational.”
Continuing the momentum requires the federal and provincial/territorial governments to make investments in their budgets in spring 2023 and beyond, she says. Diabetes Canada has identified five priority areas for funding:
- Access to Resources: Make sure communities have access to the right supports, medications and devices for those who need them.
- Measurable Progress: Create accountability so that effective actions are taken, progress is tracked and best practices are used.
- Comprehensive Data: Scale up the reporting and sharing of data to create better outcomes for people living with diabetes.
- Education: Improve public understanding with tools that are inclusive, patient-focused, and reduce stigma and inequities.
- Research: Renew innovation with more comprehensive and forward-thinking diabetes research.
Change to benefit Canadians living with diabetes
Ms. Syron’s own experience highlights the critical need to increase access to the right patient supports and to educate health-care providers on the front lines.
She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes six years ago and recalls feeling shocked and overwhelmed. “I didn’t get much support in those early days,” she says. “No one explained what managing my diabetes would involve and how I could protect against health complications through such things as annual eye exams and watching my blood pressure.”
She also remembers feeling a sense of shame – had she done something to cause this? She stresses the need to also give health professionals the tools to reduce stigma for people facing a diabetes diagnosis.
“Diabetes Canada has developed best practice guidelines clinically and on communicating with patients in a supportive, inclusive way to help them manage their diabetes with confidence. We need the system to embrace and apply the best practices.”
Reducing inequities in access to care
Stacey Livitski, who lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario, has been a patient advocate for more than a decade and has supported the efforts to bring the Framework to life. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 40 years ago, and while she welcomes the progress in treatments, she remains concerned about barriers to care.
“I am looking for action to reduce access inequities,” she says. “Because quality of care depends on geography – not just which province you live in, but which town or region. There’s a world of difference between diabetes care in a large city like Toronto, with multiple hospitals and specialists, and the options for care here in northwestern Ontario.”
President and CEO, Diabetes Canada
Inequities also occur because of finances, Ms. Livitski says. An early advocate of provincial funding for medical devices that improve diabetes management, she notes that remaining gaps in funding mean many patients can’t afford to get the best technology.
“I’m hoping that governments will adopt the Framework plan to expand access to diabetes technologies to help reduce health complications,” she says. “Prevention of any disease is always better for everyone. Governments need to recognize the value of investing in something that is going to see people living longer, healthier and more productive lives.”
Diabetes Canada is calling on the federal government to harness the value of the Framework by putting in place a formal process for accountability.
“We’re encouraging creation of an advisory body responsible for setting goals and tracking results for diabetes, similar to what the government has done for cancer and mental health,” says Ms. Syron. “We need an oversight body to ensure we are measuring progress, and learning and adjusting as we go.
“That’s our task now – to transform the promise of the Framework into positive change to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians with diabetes.”
Visit diabetes.ca/framework to get involved and help propel this plan into action.
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Diabetes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.