Flemingdon tries to prevent diabetes

[attach]3295[/attach]A lack of access to fresh, inexpensive food can make newcomers to Toronto vulnerable to diabetes.

The Flemingdon Health Centre is trying to combat the problem with a new diabetes prevention kit targeted at the large South Asian community in the neighbourhood.

Said to be the first of its kind in Canada, the kit is meant to be an informative resource that complements the health centre’s South Asian Diabetes Prevention Program, with a focus on the migrant population.

“This is the first culturally related kit introduced,” said Neil Stephens, the centre’s program coordinator.

Stephens says that immigrants are most vulnerable to the disease due to chronic stress from adapting to a Canadian economy and lifestyle.

He says another factor is the inflated price and accessibility of fresh fruits and vegetables and cost of living in the community. Other factors include genetic disposition and their settlement in a new country.

“Instead of blaming the migrant and saying ‘you’re eating too much samosas and you are getting diabetes because of that,’ we are actually saying that you are a South Asian migrant and you are living in a area where there isn’t an abundance of heavy outlets that sell fruits and vegetables,” Stephens said.

Stephens noted many South Asians are used to having groceries delivered to the home, avoiding the stress of traveling to purchase necessity items.

The kit provides information on how those vulnerable to diabetes can prevent the disease, and guidance to implement a change in lifestyle. Stephens says though there are plenty of resources available for those with diabetes, there’s less available to assist with prevention.

“If they access health care they are accessing hospitals and doctors and that’s two different perspectives, either emergency care or for primary care – nothing around prevention,’ Stephens said.

The kit includes a booklet and DVD in English, Tamil and Urdu, measuring spoons, pedometers, a stress ball and measuring tape — items the health centre claims already helps seniors live independently and keeps them informed.

“Our long-term goal for the kit is to reduce the diabetes population in the South Asian communities and to ensure that if you have diabetes that you have a resource centre and package to help you that you didn’t have before.”

According to the provincial government’s 2005 statistics, 14 percent of Ontario’s South Asian population has Type 2 diabetes, compared with the general public which was listed at 5.2 percent.

The Flemingdon Health Centre is also visiting communities in mobile clinics to try to identify people with diabetes, Stephens says. If patrons are found to have diabetes, the information resource kit is presented to them.

“If people already have diabetes, we try to help to manage it and educate them on what they can do,” Stephens said.