Look to the person on your left, now look to the person on your right. Chances are that 1 of the 3 of you are living with diabetes or prediabetes. And, alarmingly, you may be one of the 1.5 million people in Canada who have no idea that they have this disease.
Diabetes is a pressing concern for our members. People living in poverty have a much higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and treating diabetes is especially difficult for people who use food banks because of the lack of fresh, healthy food available. So we’re working to take action on this critical health issue facing our community.
Over the past year North York Harvest & Flemingdon Health Centre have teamed up to provide Diabetes Education Programs for residents in the Don Mills area. Our goal is to provide these programs quarterly for those living with or caring for those with diabetes.
We had a chance to speak with Elena Sobolev, Certified Diabetes Educator & Registered Dietitian regarding these life saving programs.
How did you determine the need for these programs through the food bank?
We have looked at a few areas where clients accessing food banks can benefit from our program. This includes food insecurity, which can be one important risk factor for those living with diabetes or even those who are at high risk; newcomers who need to prioritize settling in and putting food on the table, instead of paying attention to their health, etc.
How many people have participated in the program?
15 participants attended our June session, and 12 participants attended our September session
What is the link between diabetes and poverty?
We know that poverty is a strong risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The chronic stress of low income living can increase the levels of cortisol (a stress-hormone), which can result in elevated blood sugar levels. Also, individuals who live in poverty often struggle with access to healthy foods and physical activity programs, which in turn can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.
What kind of barriers does one in poverty face when dealing with diabetes?
There is a number of barriers faced by individuals who live in poverty. These include lack of access to healthy foods, physical activity programs, as well as high cost of diabetes medications and medical equipment (ex: blood sugar test strips).
What are the effects of untreated diabetes in one that does not have proper access to care or healthy food?
Unfortunately, the consequences of poorly controlled diabetes are quite severe. People can develop problems with their kidneys, eyes, nerves (which can results in amputations), and heart disease (heart attack or stroke).
More and more people of all ages are living with diabetes and being educated is so important. November is Diabetes Awareness month and a great opportunity to learn more about how to take care of yourself and those who love. Please visit https://www.diabetes.ca/ to learn more.
For more information about our partnership program, visit: https://www.fhc-chc.com/diabetes