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Poverty In Canada - la pauvreté au Canada
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Diabetes at crisis level on First Nations reserves, says expert

Diabetes at crisis level on First Nations reserves, says expert

The Manitoba town of Portage la Prairie, whose population is nearly on-quarter Aboriginal, is home to the world’s largest Coke can. The structure was once a water tower.

Diabetes has hit a crisis level on First Nations reserves, says the president and CEO of the Canadian Diabetes Association.

As Diabetes Awareness Month kicked off, CDA President and CEO Rick Blickstead talked to Winnipeg radio station 680 CJOB about the increasing problem of diabetes in Manitoba, and focused on the province’s 130,000 strong First Nations population, 60 per cent of whom live on reserves.

“Our First Nations across this county are highly susceptible to diabetes,” said Blickstead. “In some cases on reserves, fifty percent of young children will have diabetes by the time they are twenty years old.”

A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal supports Blickstead’s assertions, but suggests the problem may even be worse. Published in September, the study from the University from Calgary examined 70,631 First Nations and 2.7-million non-First Nations people aged 18 years or older and found the lifetime risk of diabetes at the age of 0 years was 75.6% among men and 87.3% among women in the First Nations group, as compared with 55.6% among men and 46.5% among women in the non-First Nations group.

“These findings coupled with the observations that younger people had a higher lifetime risk of diabetes than their older counterparts indicate the importance of early mobilization of preventive measures against the development of diabetes among First Nations people,” say the study’s authors.

But what are the reasons for the higher rates of diabetes? Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer at the Canadian Diabetes Association says it may be explained primarily by environment, not genetics or a lack of exercise.

“For First Nations communities in rural areas, food security may be a real challenge,” Hux told CTV News.

“Their local store may carry very few fresh fruits and vegetables and what’s there may be unaffordable.