November 2015

Halloween may have come and gone for another year, but many of us still have remnants of the dress-up holiday in our homes and workplaces in the form of pillowcases stuffed with sweets or leftovers not handed out at the door. As we grapple with setting healthy candy consumption limits for our kids (or ourselves!) it seems particularly appropriate that the day after Halloween marks the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month.

Of special note during the month is World Diabetes Day on November 14, an international day of action celebrating the birth date of Canadian scientist Sir Frederick Banting, who discovered insulin in 1921. In the time since Banting’s breakthrough, diabetes has gone from a feared disease that most certainly led to death, to one that is now widely considered to be manageable and whose sufferers can expect to enjoy full and active lives with proper treatment. While knowledge around diabetes continues to grow, insulin remains the primary medical treatment for diabetes.

With effective treatment for diabetes existing for nearly one hundred years now, it is easy to forget just how devastating this disease still is if left undiagnosed or not properly managed. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association 1 out 2 people with type 2 diabetes do not have their blood-sugar levels under control. This can lead to life-changing complications including:

  • Blindness - Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Canada
  • Foot and lower leg amputation - Diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower limb amputation and is associated with approximately 70 per cent of amputations performed in hospital
  • Kidney Failure - Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease with one in three people who have has diabetes for over 15 years will develop kidney disease

Here in HNHB, where 1 in 10 residents is living with diabetes, reducing both the incidence and impact of diabetes is a major priority. Our regional rate of diabetes is above the provincial average and is third highest among all LHINs.

With statistics like these, it is clear to see that improved management and prevention of diabetes represents a major opportunity to enhance health outcomes for LHIN residents. To that aim, the LHIN has engaged in ongoing collaboration with health service providers, including primary care, to improve coordination and support the delivery of more integrated and patient-centered care through Diabetes Education Programs (DEPs).

DEPs, which are available at 18 sites across the LHIN, offer both group and one-on-one education sessions to provide clients with knowledge and skills to self-manage their diabetes. The programs are administered by a team of specially trained healthcare professionals that help clients to better understand and manage their diabetes in order to prevent or reduce complications. These teams also help connect clients with other helpful programs and resources available in their communities. Benefits observed by patients attending Diabetes Education programs include reduced body weight, improved diabetes knowledge and lower blood pressure, all of which improve the likelihood of a long and healthy life.

A great example of how DEP’s are making a difference in the lives of their clients is the story of Ron Durette, which we shared this past spring as part of our Voices in the Community video series.

Ron is a 69-year-old Thorold resident living with type 2 diabetes. A descendant of Atlantic Canada’s Mi’kmaq First Nation, Ron been a client of the Southern Ontario Aboriginal Diabetes Initiative (SOADI) since May 2013.

Like many people with diabetes, Ron also has a number of other health conditions including heart disease, sleep apnea, chronic back pain related to herniated disks and is lung cancer survivor. He first became involved with SOADI’s DEP because he was having a difficult time managing his diabetes and was comfortable with the setting and culturally appropriate approach to care.

Since becoming involved with the program, Ron has made a number of positive lifestyle changes that have helped him to significantly improve his health. He has lost over 40 lbs., is making better nutritional choices and regularly attends the foot care clinic for treatment of foot sores, a common complication among those with diabetes who often suffer from nerve damage and poor circulation in their lower limbs.

Ron is a huge advocate of the both SOADI and its DEP and speaks very highly of the staff, dieticians, medical personnel and counsellors who he likens to family.

As proud as I am of stories like Ron’s, the reality is that in the vast majority of cases diabetes could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes. It is estimated that 5.7 million Canadians have prediabetes, a condition where blood-sugar levels are higher than normal, and that 50 per cent of those with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

A great way to determine if you may be at risk of developing diabetes or prediabetes is to take the Canadian Diabetes Association’s 2-minute online risk assessment at This quick and simple test will provide you with a personalized score based on your responses to a series of questions. Knowing your risk can help you to make healthy choices now that will reduce your risk or even prevent you from developing diabetes.

Before I sign off for another month, I just wanted to also touch on a fantastic program coordinated by St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton that offers free eye screening for people with diabetes at select locations across the LHIN.

Individuals with diabetes are at risk of eye damage from diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, two conditions which can lead to permanent vision loss or blindness. Regular screening from an eye care specialist can ensure these conditions are found and managed early to prevent progression.

Under the program, HNHB LHIN residents diagnosed with diabetes can access free eye screening on the following days.

  • November 9 2015- De dwa da dehs nye s Aboriginal Health Centre, Hamilton
  • November 13 2015- Garden City Family Health Team, St. Catharines
  • November 17 2015- De dwa da dehs nye s Aboriginal Health Centre, Brantford
  • November 20 2015- SJHH West 5th Campus, Hamilton
  • November 24 2015 - Urban Core 71 Rebecca St. Hamilton
  • December 1 2015- De dwa da dehs nye s Aboriginal Health Centre, Brantford
  • December 7 2015- De dwa da dehs nye s Aboriginal Health Centre, Hamilton
  • December 11 2015- Garden City Family Health Team, St. Catharines
  • December 15 2015- SJHH West 5th Campus, Hamilton

To learn more about diabetes, including symptoms, complications and treatments, visit

To take the 2-minute diabetes risk assessment, visit

To learn more about Diabetes Education Programs and locations available in the HNHB LHIN, CLICK HERE

If you or your organization would like to be featured in a future blog or share a patient story in one of our Voices in the Community videos you can reach us through our office, or if you’re on social media via our Twitter handle - @HNHB_LHINgage. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.