MEDICAL: DIABETES CANADA REPORT: ‘We Can’t Wait Another 100 Years’

DIABETES REPORT – FEBRUARY 22, 2021 | The Globe and Mail – Canada

Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best,  who was the founder of the Canadian Diabetic Association now known as Diabetes Canada, along with James Collip and John Macleod, are credited with the discovery of insulin.

BANTING HOUSE | DIABETES CANADA 

A CENTURY AFTER THE TRANSFORMATIVE CANADIAN DISCOVERY OF INSULIN, DIABETES CANADA ELEVATES CALL FOR URGENT ACTION TO CURE DIABETES         

THIS YEAR MARKS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF A RESEARCH ADVANCE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Frederick Banting, Charles Best and a team of researchers at the University of Toronto found a way to administer insulin to humans. Their discovery transformed diabetes from a death sentence into a disease that could often be managed for years. But for the 11 million Canadians who have diabetes or pre-diabetes today, this milestone brings home a terrible truth – INSULIN IS A TREATMENT, BUT IT IS NOT A CURE. 

A century later, life with diabetes is still a life with a disabling chronic illness. And as Diabetes Canada CEO and president Laura Syron stresses, “WE CAN’T WAIT ANOTHER 100 YEARS.” 

When Diabetes Canada began reporting on the economic cost of diabetes in Canada in 2008, it was a staggering $14-billion. Today, just 12 years later, that figure has more than doubled, to $30-billion. Without a cure, this trajectory is likely to continue to hobble Canada’s economy, health-care system and social well-being. “My son is 20 today; 20 years from now, he will have a 50 per cent chance of having diabetes if nothing changes. If you’re Indigenous, that likelihood is 80 per cent,” she says.

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes herself three years ago, Ms. Syron is intimately familiar with the costs of living with the disease. The goal of Diabetes Canada is a world without diabetes, a world free of the devastating complications of diabetes, she says. “We feel a sense of urgency that we’d like all Canadians to feel. A hundred years later, diabetes is more prevalent, with devastating consequences, and is exponentially more costly to individuals and our society,” she says.

“We feel a sense of urgency that we’d like all Canadians to feel. A hundred years later, diabetes is more prevalent, with devastating consequences, and is exponentially more costly to individuals and our society.”

LAURA SYRON

CEO and president, Diabetes Canada 

Diabetes is well known but not well understood, she says. Partly as a result of this knowledge gap, “it is a tragically successful disease – it is successful at shutting the body down, one part at a time. It is the leading cause of adult blindness, stealing sight over time. By slowly, silently damaging nerves and the circulatory system over time, it steals mobility – about 14 Canadians lose a limb due to diabetes every day.”

Half of the kidney failures in Canada are due to diabetes; it is responsible for 40 per cent of heart attacks and 30 per cent of strokes. “When you die of diabetes, the cause of death may be recorded as heart attack or stroke or kidney failure, BUT DIABETES HAD TAKEN YOUR LIFE.” 

Still stalling progress is stigma, especially around type 2 diabetes, misunderstood by many to be a disorder suffered by people who “don’t take care of themselves.” 

“When I was diagnosed, it took me a long time to tell my friends and family because I felt like I had failed at something – I had gained too much weight, I hadn’t exercised enough, I’d eaten the wrong things,” explains Ms. Syron. “That somehow it was my fault. Today, as I talk to more people and reveal that I have it, so many people I know have kind of put up their hand and said, ‘Me too!’”

BECAUSE OF THIS STIGMA – which exists despite the fact that many risk factors beyond behavioural choices determine who gets the disease – most of us are in the dark about how prevalent the disease is in our own communities, she adds. 

WHILE RESEARCHERS CONTINUE TO SEARCH FOR A CURE, AWARENESS AND EDUCATION ARE CRITICAL, says Ms. Syron. Even as a multi-billion-dollar diet industry shames people into quick-fix weight loss and fitness regimens, only scientifically based, sustainable lifestyle changes will enable people with diabetes to effectively manage their disease.

“In our support programs and on the Diabetes Canada website, we focus on what has been proven to work. If you get the diagnosis of pre-diabetes or diabetes, there are lots of science-based support mechanisms available. There are lots of things you can do, and you never have to do it alone.” 

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Diabetes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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