November is Diabetes Awareness Month – Let’s Defeat this Disease Together! By Sonia Sidhu, MP-Elect, Brampton South

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Diabetes Awareness Month 2019 – Op-Ed  (2019-11-08)

By Sonia Sidhu, MP-Elect, Brampton South

Chair of All-Party Diabetes Caucus, 2015 to 2019, Member of Standing Committee on Health, 2015 to 2019

(Note: MP Sidhu’s Private Member’s Motion (M-173) to help prevent diabetes through raised awareness by designating each November as Diabetes Awareness Month in Canada, was approved unanimously in May, 2019 by the 42nd Parliament.)

This November marks the first time that Canada will officially mark November as Diabetes Awareness Month. I am extremely grateful to all of my Parliamentary colleagues that supported my motion (M-173) this past May which aims to raise awareness and education of diabetes as an important step in defeating this terrible disease that impacts the lives of so many Canadians.

More than 11 million Canadians are impacted by this epidemic. Every three minutes, another Canadian is diagnosed with this terrible disease, which is a major cause of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failures and lower limb amputations. Presently, about three million Canadians are living with diagnosed diabetes. With the growth and aging of the Canadian population, the number of Canadians living with diabetes is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.

When diabetes symptoms are caught early, the risk for future damage decreases. Awareness and education cannot only help people remain healthy, but it can also help to identify early signs of diabetes and prevent onset for millions of Canadians. With an entire month dedicated to public education about the effects of diabetes, Canadians have an opportunity to grow and learn.

This important public health issue is also being recognized by domestic and international groups. During my first term, I had opportunity to hold consultations across the country and attend international conference where best practices from nations around the world were shared. These experiences reinforced my belief that increased awareness and education is a necessary first step in reaching our goal of an updated national strategy to slow the incidence of diabetes and eventually eliminate it.

During this month, we mark World Diabetes Day which is held globally every November 14th, in honour if Sir Frederick Banting’s birthday, and is recognized as an official United Nations day. This is the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign, reaching a global audience of over one billion people in more than 160 countries. The campaign draws attention to issues of paramount importance to the diabetes world and keeps diabetes firmly in the public and political spotlight.

This year’s theme is the Family and Diabetes. It is so important to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected, and to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes. Families are urged to learn more about the warning signs of diabetes and find out their risk of type 2 diabetes.

Some Canadians are at increased risk of diabetes, such as South Asians, first nations and Métis people and immigrants. There are higher rates of diabetes among Canadians with lower incomes and education. The incidence of Type 2 diabetes and many other chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, can largely be reduced. Scientific evidence demonstrates that by eating healthier, increasing physical activity, moderating alcohol use and not smoking, the onset of many chronic diseases can be prevented or delayed.

This is why I highly recommend the use of Canada’s Food Guide, which we recently revised and translated into a total of 28 language, so that can Canadians of all backgrounds can more easily benefit from its science-based guidance. I also encourage the use of another federally funded resource – ParticipACTION(.com), which has been encouraging Canadians to get healthy by getting active since 1971.

Complex public health challenges such as chronic diseases, including diabetes, defy single solution approaches. No organization, institution or sector of society acting alone can solve this challenge on their own. All segments of society, communities, academia, the charitable and not-for-profit sector and the private sector must work together if we are to be successful.

The federal government has a significant role to play and funding innovative projects such as the Diabetes Prevention Program with LMC Clinics, and through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for St. Michael’s Hospital, that I had the honour of announcing, will certainly continue to be part of the solution.

Educating and encouraging policies that support people with diabetes and those working to prevent it has been my priority since being elected in 2015. As a health care professional for 18 years, I went to Ottawa well aware of the burden that diabetes had placed on our country and was very motivated to work toward finding long-term solutions.

Locally, in my community, I sponsored a similar proclamation for the City of Brampton in 2017. There has been increased interest among local stakeholders and community organizations in acting on diabetes during this time and throughout the year.

Let us combat this disease and its life-threatening complications by making Canadians familiar with diabetes warning signs, encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and making it possible to access the best quality of care. Canada gave insulin to the world, improving the lives of millions of people. There is no reason we cannot lead the fight to defeat diabetes.

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