Diabetes Canada warns of 'epidemic,' calls for national strategy

Diabetes experts say Canada could prevent another million type 2 diabetes diagnoses in the next decade if Ottawa helps to fund something it lacks now: a national diabetes strategy.

Ottawa could prevent one million type 2 diabetes diagnoses, says charity

Heidi Elbarky draws blood from a finger of her son, Omar, 8, to test his sugar level. Diabetes Canada is calling on a national strategy to lower the diagnosis rate. (Mark Zaleski/Associated Press)

Diabetes experts say Canada could prevent another million type 2 diabetes diagnoses in the next decade if Ottawa helps to fund something it lacks now: a national diabetes strategy.

Officials with Diabetes Canada were joined by Liberal MP Sonia Sidhu in the National Press Theatre Tuesday morning to ask the federal government to earmark $150 million in the next budget to fund a diabetes initiative over seven years.

The charity said its Diabetes 360 strategy, modelled after HIV/AIDS targets, would establish clear milestones to prevent and manage the disease, which affects about five million Canadians.

The strategy would focus on factors contributing to the disease's rise in Canada, such as poverty, poor food security and unhealthy living.

"Canada is facing a diabetes epidemic. Since 2000, the number of Canadians with diabetes has doubled," said Dr. Jan Hux, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada.

"A 20 year old in Canada now faces a 50/50 risk of developing diabetes. For First Nations people, that risk is 80 per cent."

On Tuesday, Diabetes Canada released the results of an Ipsos poll it commissioned which found eight in ten Canadians think the country should be more concerned about diabetes.

"There is a unique opportunity for the federal government right now to take the lead on a nationwide strategy," said Russell Williams, the charity's vice-president of government relations and public policy.

"Diabetes 360 could prevent more than a million Canadians from receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in the next decade. It could also mean 50,000 lower limb amputations avoided. It could reduce 350,000 hospitalizations," he said.

Williams said any national strategy should include an Indigenous-led component.

The year "2021 is the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin," he said. "Canada must have this plan in place ... for us to continue the leadership that we once had when it comes to diabetes."

Asked about Diabetes Canada's call for a national diabetes strategy, a spokesperson for Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the government "will continue to make investments in research, prevention and early detection."