Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jump in diabetes rate raises alarm

Gerrard questions Manitoba's health strategy

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Manitoba needs to do a better job of educating the public on how to prevent diabetes if it is to reverse an alarming trend.

That's the view of Winnipeg Liberal MLA Dr. Jon Gerrard, who has just released a 56-page critique of the province's approach to dealing with the chronic disease.

Gerrard said a co-ordinated government effort is needed to stem the climb in new cases of diabetes. The number of Manitobans with the disease has climbed to close to 100,000 from 52,874 in 1998.

"When we looked at the incidence, or the number of new cases being diagnosed, what we found is that the last three years have recorded the highest number of new cases ever," he said.

'When we looked at the incidence, or the number of new cases being diagnosed, what we found is that the last three years have recorded the highest number of new cases ever'

-- Liberal MLA Dr. Jon Gerrard

Gerrard said more than 60 per cent of new cases of diabetes could be prevented through a vigorous public education campaign and pilot projects targeting high-risk groups.

Research has shown the incidence of Type 2 diabetes can be significantly reduced through a combination of exercise and diet, he said. What's needed is a co-ordinated approach by government to ensure the message is getting out through doctors, nurses, dietitians and other health professionals, the River Heights MLA said.

Gerrard said the government made a mistake a few years ago when it folded its diabetes unit within Manitoba Health into a broader chronic diseases group. The diabetes problem is large enough to warrant a focused effort, he said.

He castigated the government for claiming last month the number of people being diagnosed with diabetes has declined.

He said the government's own stats, which he obtained through freedom of information legislation, show the opposite.

Manitoba Health officials were unavailable for comment Friday. A department spokeswoman referred a reporter to a Manitoba Centre for Health Policy report that indicated provincial diabetes incidence rates had fallen slightly in the last few years but were still significantly higher than a decade ago.

Gerrard, however, noted the MCHP study excluded persons under the age of 19 and many new Canadians.

The Canadian Diabetes Association said 7.6 per cent of Manitobans (94,000) were estimated to have had type 1 or 2 diabetes in 2010. By 2020, the association estimates the prevalence will grow to 10.1 per cent, or 139,000 people.

Meanwhile, Gerrard said the message needs to get out that moderate exercise (at least 30 minutes per day), sufficient vitamin D and a diet rich in whole grains, fruit (blueberries, grapes, raisins, prunes, apples and bananas), green leafy vegetables, and legumes such as soybeans, peas and lentils can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

He said it's also simplistic merely to tell the public to cut down on the consumption of sugar.

Eating nutrient-rich food is also effective and can reduce constant hunger cravings, he said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 28, 2013 A3

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