After months of arm-twisting by Native healthcare groups, the federal government has renewed funding for treatment and prevention of diabetes for Canada’s Aboriginal communities.
Health Canada will provide $285 million over the next two years for a range of health programs for Aboriginal Canadians, including the Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative, the Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy, maternal and child health, the Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative, and the Aboriginal Health Transition Fund.
The announcement couldn’t have come at a better time, said Emilea Karhioo, healthcare advocate with the Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association in Edmonton. Karihoo said type 2 diabetes is escalating at an alarming rate throughout Alberta’s Aboriginal community, particularly among children. Public awareness about the crisis is needed along with treatment, she said.
“I truly hope that more of this funding for Aboriginal health initiatives will be focused on preventative programs,” she said. “While treatment is important, our dollars can be doubly valuable if they go towards programs that prevent the incidents of disease so that future treatment dollars and the burden on our healthcare system is unnecessary.”
The recent study found 345 cases of type 2 diabetes in children across the nation between April, 2006 and March 2008. Almost half at 44 per cent were kids with Aboriginal heritage.
The study, funded by the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the Manitoba Institute of Child Health, involved pediatricians across the country.
It’s not the first study to raise the alarm about high rates of diabetes among Aboriginal groups, said Dr. Shazhan Amed, an endocrinologist at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital and the other author on the study.
Type 2 diabetes has been linked to obesity and other health risks, and until recently, was almost unheard of in children. But as the obesity rate climbs, the disease is showing up among pre-teens. The average age of diagnosis in the new study was 13.7 years, and dozens of cases involved kids under 10. Ninety-five per cent of the children with type 2 diabetes were obese.
Parents need to make an effort toward promoting healthier lifestyles in their communities.
“We need to nurture the new generation of youth by providing nutrition programs to mothers and to families,” said Karihoo. “I believe that physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour is a great approach to preventing type 2 diabetes.”
Another study earlier this year by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found the incidence of diabetes is more than four times higher in First Nations women than among non-First Nations women. For men, the rate of new diabetes cases was 2.5 times that of non-Aboriginals.