Diabetes “Epidemic” in Manitoba


It can be argued that Manitoba is in a state of a diabetes epidemic. Manitoba has the second highest per capita rate of childhood type 2 diabetes in North America. Manitoba also has the highest rate in Canada โ€“ by a huge margin. This is incredibly alarming.

So what is Type 2 diabetes? It is a disease in which your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or your body does not properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy.

Type 1 diabetes (previously known as insulin-dependent, juvenile or childhood-onset) is when there is deficient insulin production which requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge.

Type 2 diabetes comprises 90% of people with diabetes around the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Until recently, this type of diabetes was seen only in adults but it is now also occurring in children.

Based on a U.S. study, a North American child born in 2000 stands a one in three chance of being diagnosed with diabetes in his or her lifetime! In Canada, more than 3 million Canadians are living with diabetes and this number is expected to reach 3.7 million by 2020.

The number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing dramatically due to a number of factors including our aging population, increase in obesity rates and sedentary lifestyles. Aboriginal people are three to five times more likely than the general population to develop type 2 diabetes.

The costs of diabetes include both personal and financial. Those affected have an increased likelihood of complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, amputation and a shortened life expectancy. Financially, itโ€™s estimated that diabetes will cost the Canadian healthcare system $16.9 billion a year by 2020.

Type 2 diabetes may be prevented through increased physical activity, healthy eating and weight loss.

My concern is that those that are at risk for the development of the disease are not receiving this information. Especially those in remote areas where there are high populations of Aboriginal people. In addition, even if these people did have the information, do they have access to what they need? It is no secret that fresh fruit and vegetables are not readily available in remote communities. When they are available, they are charged ridiculous prices. When money is tight, families will likely choose what is cheapest in order to provide for their families rather than what is most nutritious. In addition, are Aboriginal people with Type 2 diabetes educated on what they can do to make positive changes while keeping with their traditional cultural food choices? For those of us with internet, we can google any educational information, recipes or tips we need. Up north, this is often not an option.

There are many things we, as a community, can and should do about prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. However, firstly, I think we all need to be aware of the seriousness and scope of the disease. Once we are all โ€œin the knowโ€, we can help to spread the word and encourage others to do the same.

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