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Diabetes Canada, JDRF Canada and LMC Healthcare hosted an event on World Diabetes Day, November 14, to raise awareness about type 1 and type 2 diabetes and advocate for more urgent action to address the disease in Canada.

Diabetes now affects over a third of the Canadian population and costs the healthcare system $29 billion dollars annually. Left unmanaged, it can lead to a number of life-threatening complications such as heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney disease and lower-limb amputation.  Today, Canada has one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the developed world.

“Canada is the birthplace of insulin,” said Sonia Sidhu, Member of Parliament for Brampton South and Chair of the All-Party Diabetes Caucus. “We should be leading the world with one of the lowest incidences of diabetes, not suffering from one of the highest.”

Attendees of the event spanned multiple stakeholder groups committed to the fight against diabetes and included representatives from non-profit organizations; government; hospitals & community providers; patients & their families; academia; research; and industry.

“We can’t continue to tackle diabetes in Canada by working in silos,” said Kimberley Hanson, Executive Director, Diabetes Canada. “We need a strategic framework that coordinates the activities of provinces and territories to address this epidemic, and to focus all parts of the health care system on measurably improving the health of Canadians affected by diabetes.  That framework is Diabetes 360˚.”

Diabetes 360˚ is a nation-wide strategy developed under the leadership of Diabetes Canada to better prevent, screen for and manage diabetes and its complications. The strategy calls for increased government support over the next seven years to fund a coordinated set of initiatives that will dramatically reduce diabetes in Canada and save the healthcare system over $20 billion.  Proposed interventions include reducing health inequities and food insecurity; supporting diabetes research; increasing the availability of diabetes screening and lifestyle medicine programs; and increasing access to necessary drugs, devices and technologies;

And Diabetes 360˚ won’t only help prevent type 2 diabetes – it will also help those with type 1 diabetes. “JDRF supports Diabetes 360˚ because it will help ensure that people with type 1 diabetes have access to the care, medications, medical devices and supplies they need to live well with the disease while we search for a cure,” says Patrick Tohill, National Director, Government Relations & Advocacy at JDRF.

“Implementing this framework can prevent more than 100,000 cases of type 2 diabetes from being diagnosed in Canada each year,” says Hanson. “It can also prevent many cases of complications, hospitalizations, and premature death, improving the quality of life of those affected by diabetes and saving our health care system billions of dollars.”

One promising intervention currently being piloted is the Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program (CDPP).  This lifestyle change program helps Canadians with prediabetes or with multiple risk factors, delay type 2 diabetes.  The program is being delivered by LMC Healthcare in collaboration with Diabetes Canada and provides personal health coaching, digital tools and online education to help participants make lasting lifestyle changes that lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The program is funded in large part by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is available to participants at no cost. It was announced today that the program would be expanding from Southern Ontario and Winnipeg and would be available to residents of Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax.

“While we’ve made great advances in researching treatments for diabetes over the years leading to a reduction in diabetic complications, the burden of the type 2 diabetes epidemic continues to rise,” says LMC endocrinologist Dr. Harpreet Bajaj, the principal investigator for CDPP and Vice Chair of Diabetes Canada’s Clinical Practice Guidelines Committee.  “Today, double the number of Canadians live with diabetes than did just 15 years ago.  If we are going to substantially slow the growing epidemic of this permanent disease, prevention efforts like the Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program are critical.”

Virtual health coaching programs such as the CDPP have become more common in the U.S. and Europe and have shown to be effective in preventing diabetes and slowing its progression. “When it comes to tackling lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, health coaching is invaluable” said Mark Angelo, President & CEO of LMC Healthcare. “Ten to fifteen years ago, one-on-one health coaching was cost-prohibitive, but thanks to advancements in digital technology, it’s now possible to envision a not-too-distant future where every Canadian with diabetes or prediabetes has access to a virtual health coaching program to support them in making lifestyle modifications and achieving their wellness goals.”

“Implementing a national strategy will require ongoing collaboration and partnership among organizations like those here today and others,” said Hanson. “I’m encouraged to feel the spirit of optimism and collectivity represented here today, and truly believe that, by continuing to work together, we can ensure a future where our shared dream of ending the diabetes epidemic is a reality.”

“The time for talk and uncertainty is over,” said Angelo.  “We’ve done the analysis; we have the plan; we’ve assembled a guiding coalition.  Now is the time for action.”

Left to right: Dr. Harpreet Bajaj, Endocrinologist and Principal Investigator for the Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program; Mark Angelo, CEO, LMC Healthcare;  Sonia Sidhu, MP Brampton South and Chair of the All-Party Diabetes Caucus;  Dr. Jan Hux, CEO, Diabetes Canada; Kimberly Hanson, Executive Director, Diabetes Canada; Patrick Tohill, National Director, Government Relations & Advocacy, JDRF Canada;;