Diabetes increasing in N.B.: report

The prevalence of diabetes in New Brunswick is growing as are the costs associated with treating the disease, according to a new report from the province's chief medical officer of health.

The prevalence of diabetes in New Brunswick is growing as are the costs associated with treating the disease, according to a new report from Dr. Eilish Cleary, the province's chief medical officer of health.

The report, released Wednesday, indicates that by 2012-13, one in 10 residents will be living with diabetes, up from one in 13 in 2007-08. (The database on which the report was based was unable to differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.)

The study of diabetes in the province found that during the period from 1998-99 to 2007-08, the prevalence of the disease has increased from 37.5 to  62.8 cases per 1,000 New Brunswickers among males and from 32.6 to 53.0 cases per 1,000 people among females.

As the number of people living with diabetes increases, so does the amount of money the Department of Health spends treating it.

The department estimates that by 2016 it will be spending $198 million a year on diabetes-related health care expenses, a 66.4 per cent increase from 2000.

"Diabetes itself is associated with a lot of other problems," Cleary said. "You have an increased incidence of heart disease, kidney disease and amputation and so on when you have diabetes.

"So, all that put together puts a big burden on people and on the system."

Changes in lifestyle can help some

The chief medical officer said she expects the costs for treating New Brunswick residents with diabetes to eventually surpass $200 million a year.

The Canadian Diabetes Association said the report shows the need for a comprehensive diabetes strategy.

"Our volunteer advocates have been working tirelessly to raise awareness about the need to address the growing epidemic of diabetes and to mitigate the impact of diabetes on the health of New Brunswickers," said Jake Reid, the association's regional director, in a statement.

Cleary said one reason for the increase in the rate of diabetes is the aging population.

But she said more young people are now getting Type 2 diabetes than did in the past.

She said that's mainly because of poor eating and exercise habits.

"It has been shown that changes in lifestyle can reduce the instance of [Type 2] diabetes by up to 60 per cent," Cleary said.

Cleary said the province should be educating people on how to improve their lifestyle.

She said money spent to set up programs to encourage exercise and to increase physical education in schools would be quickly recouped by savings in the health care system.

More doctor visits, hospitalizations

The diabetes report indicated that between 2003-04 and 2007-08, an average of 4,887 new cases of diabetes were diagnosed in New Brunswick each year, and two-thirds of those were in individuals between the ages of 45 and 74.

About 78 of the new cases diagnosed each year in that period were in children and adolescents between one and 19 years old.

In 2007-08, about 620 New Brunswickers age one to 19 were living with the disease, an increase of 12 per cent from 2003.

The report showed that the rates of diabetes are higher in Saint John, Campbellton and Miramichi and lower in Moncton and Edmundston.

The higher rates of people living with diabetes is also creating other problems within the health system.

People with diabetes represent 27 per cent of total hospital care days between 2003-04 and 2007-08. They were also 1.7 times more likely than people without diabetes to visit a family physician and 2.4 times more likely to see a medical specialist.

The report said they were 3.3 times more likely to be hospitalized than people who do not have the disease, and once in the hospital, they stayed 3.4 times longer.