Tuesday, April 20, 2010


This is quite disturbing: a new major study shows that immigrants, especially but not exclusively those from South Asia and the Caribbean, develop higher rates of Type 2 diabetes, and they do so much sooner than the rest of the population. The main culprits appear to be the usual suspects: inactivity, obesity, and poor food choices, but a genetic component is also a factor. This has serious implications for the health care system, considering that there are over 250,000 immigrants and refugees admitted each year, and that their higher likelihood of developing the disease can impact health care costs adversely. Perhaps immigrant communities should consider an outreach program to educate their members on how to lower the risk factors for the disease. This should be a worthwhile effort that will benefit not only the immigrants, bu the country at large. Also, schools should be much more aggressive in educating the children on food choices and nutrition, and increase the amount of exercise time in their curriculums, ratter than waste funds on programs of dubious value.

Diabetes soaring among South Asians in Canada Canada News Toronto Sun

Diabetes soaring among South Asians in Canada

Last Updated: April 19, 2010 12:16pm

OTTAWA - Diabetes among South Asian immigrants is soaring in comparison with rates for other immigrant groups, clocking in at three times higher than among newcomers from western Europe or North America.
Ethnic minority immigrants have “significantly higher” rates of diabetes than long-term Ontario residents, says a study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
With public health experts already concerned about the diabetes explosion among Canadians, the in-depth study of immigrants concludes policymakers should find ways to aggressively target these groups with specific information on healthy lifestyles and early detection.
“South Asians really stood out, and they’re getting it so young,” said principal author Maria Isabella Creatore, an epidemiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.
“We found immigrants from South Asia already had higher risks than other immigrants by their 20s and 30s. That points to some serious targeting of young South Asians. If you’re going to have effective prevention programs, we have to target youth,” she said.
School programs on exercise and healthy eating to prevent diabetes might be one example, Creatore added.
Diabetes rates among people from Latin America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa were also high.
The findings, which likely apply to immigrant groups throughout Canada, are the “tip of the iceberg” on the worldwide increase in diabetes, she said.
The study complements new research published by the CMAJ at the same time showing the higher risks diverse ethnic groups face of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular illnesses.
The diabetes study, however had rate access to immigration records through Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Personal identifiers were removed, but Creatore’s group was able to use detailed data for individuals.
“Diabetes prevalence is increasing most rapidly in the developing world, which contributes to the majority of immigrants to Canada,” the study says.
About 250,000 people a year immigrate to Canada, and the large numbers are from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Ontario alone has more than one million immigrants, which made it a natural place to conduct the study. It already has an ethnically diverse province, so to see rates like these among immigrants was “particularly striking,” the authors wrote.
Among the general population, diabetes rates are higher among men than women. But the study of immigrants showed the reverse: women were more likely to suffer the disease.
“A higher risk of diabetes, combined with social isolation and barriers to accessing services that many recent immigrant women experience, may raise important health issues for immigrant women and should be of concern to health provides and planners,” the study speculates.
An unexplained finding was that diabetes risk increases – rather than decreases - among immigrants the longer they stay. The authors theorize that this is because immigrants pick up unhealthy behaviour such as “a westernized diet” and suffer “acculturation stress” along with a decline in their social and economic status because they are newcomers.
More than three-million Canadians suffer diabetes. If not properly treated, it can lead to serious problems such as heart and kidney disease, eye problems and nerve damage.
Creatore said one of the main messages is that diabetes can be prevented.
“Understanding who the high risk groups are, and when the risk factors appear, I think that’s very important,” she said.
But she noted, it will be “a challenge to access immigrant communities, to be able to get into these communities and educate and design effective prevention programs.”

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