High rate of diabetes in GTA

April 24, 2012 - All News

More than 1 million Ontarians have Type 2 diabetes and the Greater Toronto Area is home to approximately one half of all cases, a massive new study has found.
Brampton, parts of Mississauga, Etobicoke, Rexdale and Scarborough have some of the highest rates of diabetes in the province — with the exception of First Nations communities, where as many as one in three people have the disease.
The report, released Tuesday by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), for the first time maps diabetes rates across Ontario.
It also maps out rates of diabetes complications, painting a picture of who in the province is more likely to receive help in managing their disease.
“There is enormous variation in complication rates across the province,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Gillian Booth, an adjunct scientist at ICES and scientist at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital.
The goal of the study, she said, is to provide a baseline look at patterns of diabetes in Ontario.
“We know that rates of complications are going down while rates of diabetes are going up,” she said, noting most studies have looked at the province as a whole. “We haven’t zeroed down into smaller areas so we can identify where things are going well and areas where more targeted strategies are needed to bring that community or that region down to the provincial average in terms of complication rates or rates of diabetes.”
Diabetes is a chronic illness that can lead to heart attack, kidney failure, blindness and amputations.
According to ICES, previous studies have found the prevalence of diabetes in Ontario has doubled in just 12 years.
Experts say the soaring rates of diabetes in Ontario — and across much of the world — are due in part to an aging population and to rising rates of obesity, spurred on by unhealthy eating habits and sedentary lifestyles.
But socioeconomic status and ethnic background also play a part in who will get diabetes and who is at risk for developing the disease.
Booth, who is also an endocrinologist at St. Michael’s Hospital, said diabetes is more common in certain ethnic groups, including people of Aboriginal, South Asian, African and Hispanic descent.
She said the pattern of diabetes in Ontario revealed by the report fits with where these at-risk communities live in the province.
“It fits with the pattern we expected,” Booth said. “There is more ethnic diversity in the GTA, so we do see higher rates of diabetes as well.
“Amongst recent immigrants, South Asians have among the highest rates of diabetes. We do see communities around the GTA, such as Brampton and Mississauga, having high rates of diabetes where we know a lot of South Asian immigrants are settling in those areas.”
Booth said the report highlights the need for diabetes prevention in Ontario.
“We know from studies that diabetes can be potentially prevented in high-risk populations,” she said. “The prevalence being so high really underscores the need for policies and strategies to help curb the obesity epidemic and focus on specific high-need communities.”
The report found that rates of chronic complications of diabetes, which includes end-stage kidney disease, amputation and cardiovascular problems, were highest in northern Ontario and in rural areas in southern areas of the province — and that the rates for these communities were about three times higher than in urban areas.
Rates of acute complications were also highest in smaller, predominantly rural communities in southern and northern areas of Ontario.