CanRisk coming to Hay River

Debbie Sutton, a diabetes nurse educator in Hay River, holds a display used to teach people about the disease.  - NNSL file photo

Debbie Sutton, a diabetes nurse educator in Hay River, holds a display used to teach people about the disease.
– NNSL file photo

CanRisk, a group working against diabetes under the onus of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is coming to Hay River later this month.

The creators of a questionnaire that can most always accurately predict the likelihood of a patient developing Type 2 diabetes are making the trip north to look into studying aboriginal populations in the South Slave, similar to a study recently completed in Nunavut.

“(CanRisk) need buy-in from the community before they can move forward with anything else,” said Frances Aylward, manager of primary care and community health services for the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority. “I think it’s a great idea. Creating more awareness is only going to help people with their health.”

The study, still in its earliest phases, proposes to include people between 20 and 39 years old. The standard questionnaire used across Canada targets 45-to-74 year-olds, but can be administered to younger people in high-risk populations.

“The agency developed CanRisk to identify individuals aged 40 years or older who are at high risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes,” Sylwia Krzyszton, senior advisor media relations for PHAC, wrote in an email to The Hub. “Risk scores have been developed for many ethnic groups across Canada. The Agency is now conducting the research necessary to expand the use of this tool to younger age groups.”

Debbie Sutton, diabetes nurse educator and co-ordinator of Hay River’s diabetes program, said aboriginal people fall into the high-risk category.

“One reason for the higher incidence (of diabetes) is the traditional lifestyle of Aboriginal peoples was active and included eating healthy foods,” she said. “Today the lifestyles have changed and people are not as active and eat less healthy food.”

Hay River’s diabetes program, started in 2003, currently has 170 active clients, whom the team see at least every three months. The program helps patients with blood work, medication management, diagnosis and mitigation of complications, and education for people living with pre-diabetes, both Type 1 and 2, as well as gestational diabetes. The program’s database contains 510 names of people living with diabetes in Hay River, Enterprise, and the Hay River Reserve alone. Sutton said out the list is far from complete as many may be dealing with the disease on their own and not seeking help from the program.

“Most of the diabetes program resources are used to help manage those living with diabetes, prevent complications or manage complications,” she said. “But we also offer community sessions in Hay River and the reserve targeting prevention of Type 2 diabetes.”

Both federal and local proponents agree prevention is key.

“Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects almost 2.5 million Canadians,” wrote Krzyszton. “Type 2 diabetes is the most common form, accounting for 90 to 95 per cent of all diabetes in Canada. Preventing Type 2 diabetes is a public health priority that relies on supporting Canadians in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles, particularly healthy weights.”

She also said two out of three adults and one in three children in Canada are overweight or obese, a factor driving the increase in the prevalence of the disease. Krzyszton indicated participants in the study – which is looking to begin data collection in late 2013 into 2014 – would benefit from understanding their own individual risk of diabetes and pre-diabetes, as well as be able to recognize and change the habits that can contribute to that risk.

“Any project that will diagnose those with Type 2 diabetes early will be beneficial as some people will have Type 2 diabetes for between five and 10 years before they are diagnosed and by then complications have developed,” said Sutton. “If we can diagnose early, help manage disease early, we can prevent or slow progression of complications.”

— Sarah Ladik