World Diabetes Day was recognized Nov. 14, with this year’s theme of “Family and Diabetes” focusing on the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected as well as promoting the family’s role in diabetes management, care, prevention and education.
This effort stems from 2018 research by the International Diabetes Federation which found that a majority of parents struggle with identifying the warning signs of diabetes. The IDF study discovered that, despite the majority of people surveyed having a family member with diabetes, an alarming four-in-five parents would have trouble recognizing the warning signs, and one in three wouldn’t spot them at all.
The findings underscore the need for education and awareness to help people spot the diabetes warning signs early, says the World Diabetes Day website (worlddiabetesday.org).
The IDF says there are about 425 million people living with diabetes. In Canada, there are about three million people with diagnosed diabetes, and Diabetes Canada says one in three Canadians have diabetes or prediabetes.
Awareness about diabetes is crucial because, left untreated or not properly managed, it can result in serious complications including blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Diabetes was responsible for four million deaths in 2017, says the WDD website.
Diabetes Canada indicates that type 1 diabetes usually develops during childhood or adolescence and involves the body’s inability to develop its own insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type (involving about 90 per cent of cases) and generally develops in adulthood. People with type 2 diabetes either are unable to properly use the insulin made by their bodies, or their bodies aren’t able to produce enough insulin.
The management of diabetes was greatly aided by the discovery of insulin in 1922 by a Canadian research team at the University of Toronto led by Dr. Frederick Banting, who later received the Nobel Prize as the co-discoverer of insulin. It was such a significant discovery that the Canadian Encyclopedia says: “Arguably one of Canada’s greatest contributions in the area of medical research, the discovery of insulin completely transformed the treatment of diabetes, saving millions of lives worldwide.”
According to Banting House, Banting and fellow researchers Dr. Charles Best and Dr. James Collip were awarded the American patents for insulin, which they sold to the University of Toronto for $1 each in order to make it widely available. Banting justified his action by noting, “Insulin does not belong to me, it belongs to the world.”
Ironically, insulin has become so expensive in the United States that many Americans with diabetes reportedly can’t afford this needed medication. While regulation of insulin pricing is better in Canada, a report by the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) indicated that, on average, Canadians spend more than $1,500 per year on diabetes medications, devices and supplies. Because of these costs, 57 per cent of Canadians did not comply fully with their treatment, the CDA found.
It’s with that in mind that the CDA has urged governments to make diabetes treatments more affordable by enhancing the Disability Tax Credit. The organization has also called for a more equitable access to medications, devices and supplies across all provinces. Support from government at all levels as well as heightened education and awareness among the public can combine to make life as smooth as possible for those living with diabetes.