Deanna Ratt and her family have seen their lives turned upside down by diabetes.
She and her husband live with Type 2 diabetes. A cousin in her early 50s died a week ago due to complications from the disease.
Her younger brother has lost a leg because of diabetes, and the family fears he could lose his other leg as he now has a lesion on that limb.
'It's something we can look to for guidance and support as we manage the illness' -- Deanna Ratt, a Type 2 diabetes sufferer, on the diabetes charter
"There are so many that suffer," Ratt said Monday, as she summed up the disease's terrible toll. It afflicts 112,000 Manitobans.
She said she strongly supports a national vision for tackling the disease touted on Monday by the Canadian Diabetes Association.
The association says the seriousness of the disease is nothing short of "a national health crisis." It estimates one in 10 deaths is attributable to diabetes and its complications.
On Monday, the CDA released a "diabetes charter" -- a listing of rights and responsibilities for Canadians living with the disease, caregivers, governments and medical professionals.
"All Canadians living with diabetes should be given the opportunity to reach their health potential," the document says. "However, many are unable to afford the supports they need to optimize their health -- these supports include prescribed medications... devices such as insulin pumps, supplies such as blood-glucose test strips and comprehensive care from a well-co-ordinated health team."
The association said people living in certain parts of Canada pay thousands of dollars more each year on medications, devices and supplies than those in other parts of the country. It wants to see these inequities end.
In Alberta, for instance, there is full coverage for insulin-pump programs, while in Manitoba there's an age limit (only those under 18 with Type 1 diabetes are covered).
The association said more than half of Canadians with diabetes report they are unable to adhere to prescribed treatment plans due their cost.
It called on governments to guarantee access to diabetes care for all Canadians, regardless of their income or where they live.
The CDA said special attention needs to be paid to high-risk populations who are particularly vulnerable to diabetes and its complications. These include First Nations peoples, both on and off reserves, who are three to five times more likely to get the disease than the general population.
Ratt, a Winnipegger with family in Peguis First Nation, said her 53-year-old cousin faced long trips to Winnipeg three times a week for dialysis. The trips were difficult because of her frail health. Dialysis service was unavailable in Peguis, located about 200 kilometres north of the city.
"She was going in for dialysis due to the complications from diabetes. She had a stroke in hospital and passed away away from home," an emotional Ratt said Monday.
She said the diabetes charter is important for disease sufferers, family members, the medical community and public officials.
"It's something we can look to for guidance and support as we manage the illness," she said.