Diabetes support, prevention urged for Eskasoni
Prevalence of diabetes highest in Cape Breton District Health Authority
Health officials in Eskasoni, Nova Scotia's largest Mi'kmaq community, say they're struggling to reduce the number of people with diabetes.
The Cape Breton District Health Authority, which includes Eskasoni, has the highest rate of diabetes in the province according to a 2011 report released by the Diabetes Care Program of Nova Scotia.
The prevalence of crude diabetes in that health authority is 12.3 per cent of the population over the age of 20. That rate has been steadily increasing since 2004.
Helen Sylliboy, who is one of thousands of Cape Bretoners living with diabetes, finds it harder to get around her kitchen these days. Diabetes has blinded her in one eye and damaged her kidneys, and her severe arthritis keeps her in a wheelchair.
"It makes me sometimes feel sorry for myself and cry because I know I could have avoided it if I just took care of myself," she said.
"If I had just eaten right, lost the weight and exercised."
Sylliboy goes for dialysis treatment three days a week. She said it makes her angry to see so many people in the community ignore their health and develop diabetes.
"I'd like to smack em' one. The diet nowadays is pizza, pop, chips, that's garbage. You're just filling up your gas tank for a short trip down the road to kidney failure and diabetes," she said.
"I feel sorry for the kids, if they have to live with what I have to live daily. Blindness, I'm incapacitated by my arthritis and my diabetes and then I'm stuck to a kidney machine and I feel sorry for anybody who has to through it. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy."
Sylliboy wants people to start eating better and getting exercise so they won't end up like her.
Sharon Rudderham, the health director at the Eskasoni Community Health Centre, said they have prevention programs, but diabetes rates continue to rise.
She said with the growth of the aboriginal population, communities like Eskasoni need more help.
"Health authorities really need to start to consider how they can support First Nations communities and the provision of more health services within First Nations communities," Rudderham said.
She believes the high rate of poverty in the community is forcing people to eat poorly and could be driving up diabetes rates.