For someone who does not have diabetes, Peggy Archer understands it too well.
The retired Dauphin teacher became an expert on the metabolic condition after her grandson, Dylan, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 8.
At that time, her Alberta-based son, Chuck (Dylan's father), had to move to a different province to work a union job just so he could get the drug coverage he needed to pay for Dylan's medical supplies.
"He was taken away from home for significant periods of time," says Archer, noting that Dylan's insulin pump costs about $7,000 every three years. Meanwhile, the blood-test strips he needs to check his blood-sugar levels cost approximately $70 for a week's supply.
"That was a significant impact on the family," she says.
A couple of years ago, Chuck, 43, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. His condition requires him to take oral medication as well as daily blood tests like his son.
Archer's mother has Type 2 diabetes, as well.
"As a mother and grandma (and a daughter) you are always concerned. There are so many things that can go wrong," says Archer, who loses sleep over potential diabetes-related health complications that could afflict her grandson, son or mother.
She also worries about her grandson, now 16, a hockey player, who has faced stigma and misconceptions about his Type 1 diabetes.
But Archer is feeling more at ease about these issues with the news the Canadian Diabetes Association has created a "Diabetes Charter for Canada."
The document will be announced in a series of press conferences today being held across the country, including Winnipeg. The announcement coincides with World Health Day.
The document outlines the rights and responsibilities of Canadians living with diabetes as well as the rights and responsibilities of health-care providers.
The charter says Canadians with diabetes need "affordable and timely access to prescribed medication, supplies and high-quality care, as well as affordable and adequate access to healthy foods and recreation, regardless of their income or where they live."
It also calls on daycares, schools and workplaces to ensure that staff and peers are well-informed about diabetes and that children and adults with diabetes are protected from discrimination.
Joan King, the Calgary-based advocacy manager for the CDA, says even though the charter has no legal power, it will serve as a tool to lobby governments and health-care providers to work as a team to tackle diabetes, a growing health-care problem in this country.
"Diabetes is a national health crisis," says King, noting the charter took two years to produce after consulting with numerous advocates across the country.
Diabetes is a condition involving insufficient insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, a macronutrient in foods such as grains, fruits and vegetables.
More than nine million people have diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the CDA.
Most of those cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is linked to excess body weight and a high-carbohydrate diet. In these cases, the disease can often be controlled by diet and exercise, since the pancreas still produces insulin. While it's mostly a lifestyle-induced adult disease, children can also contract Type 2 diabetes, a relatively new phenomenon.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. With this condition, patients do not produce any insulin and require daily injections or an insulin pump to survive. About 10 per cent of all cases of diabetes in Canada are Type 1. Most are diagnosed as children or young adults.
All people with diabetes need strict blood-sugar control in order to prevent vascular complications such as heart disease, kidney problems, blindness and limb amputations.
"The paper itself may not have any significant impact. I think it gives us direction. I think it gives us consistency across Canada -- not just province to province," says Archer.
Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Heather Dean and her team have treated every child with diabetes in Manitoba since she founded her clinic three decades ago.
Her favourite part of the charter is the section about "appropriate and seamless transitional care."
"It's music to my ears because of the Maestro Program," Dean says about the project that helps young people who have left her pediatric diabetes program transition into adult care.
Dean says many young adults fail to get regular checkups with diabetes specialists since their parents are no longer driving them to their appointments and university and jobs become their priority. Dean hopes the charter will help doctors push their diabetes patients to get the specialized care they need. She also hopes it will help patients take responsibility for their health.
Dean admits to scanning the obituaries daily for her the diabetes patients she used to treat as children and teens.
"Young people often don't look ahead, which can lead to consequences and sometimes tragic consequences," she says.
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