Canada found to have one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world

by Barbara Hewitt on November 9, 2015

Canada has one of the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in its adult population in the world, with more than three million people or 9.4% of the population diagnosed with the condition, new reports show.

Some 10% have type 2 diabetes and another 10% have prediabetes, which means they are at risk of developing the condition, according to data from the Canadian Institute of Health. And the country as a whole is among the bottom 25% of the 34 developed countries tracked by the Office of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Canadian flagThough the level of health care in Canada is comparable to countries with lower diabetes rates, the nation fares poorly in rates of obesity, diet and physical activity, which are well-known factors in prevention and management of type 2 diabetes, the report point out.

“We can use these international comparisons to learn from other countries to improve diabetes prevention and management locally. It is important to consider both risk factors for the individual, such as diet and exercise, and for the population, such as income inequality or built environment,” said Katerina Gapanenko, CIHI’s manager of health system research.

The CIHI report warns that without a shift in policies and priorities, the prevalence of diabetes is expected to continue to grow and the OECD report advises that Canada needs to do more to improve care for people living with one or more chronic conditions in order to avoid unnecessary hospital emergency department visits and admissions.

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) welcomed the publication of the data.

“In the area of diabetes complications, it is encouraging to see that Canada matches the performance of other jurisdictions, suggesting that we are doing well at managing the disease in a clinical setting,” said Dr. Jan Hux, chief science officer at the CDA. “However, looking beyond the clinical realm, this report identifies important opportunities to intervene at a public health level to stem the tide of diabetes in Canada.”

The research also shows that Canada has higher rates of type 1 diabetes in children than the majority of OECD countries, with 21.7% new cases per 100,000, compared with the OECD average of 17.2%. Generally, Canada’s peer countries have higher type 1 diabetes incidence rates than non-peer OECD countries.

It points out that an estimated 90% of type 2 diabetes cases and 60% of complications are preventable by modifying risk factors and better managing diabetes. Canada performs poorly on risk factors such as obesity and diet, particularly relative to countries with a low prevalence of diabetes, such as Sweden and the Netherlands. Even on indicators where Canada performs well internationally, performance is still below levels recommended by public health guidelines

“With high rates of overweight and obesity in Canada, there is a need for better food environments overall in our country. The CDA would also like to see ethical and accurate nutrition information provided to consumers and greater access to healthy and affordable food options, especially in communities where there is a higher risk of diabetes,” said Hux.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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