In the summer of 2017 Liberal MP for Brampton South, Sonia Sidhu, spoke to Canadians about Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, revisions to Canada’s Food Guide, and strategies to reduce the marketing of unhealthy food to children (M2K), all through the lens of diabetes, which has an impact on 11 million Canadians today. This consultation series was not the first time MP Sidhu has engaged with diabetes, and is simply the the most recent step taken to #defeatdiabetes. Below are some of the consultations and discussions surrounding the issue of diabetes that have taken place in the past year.
JDRF Alberta and Northwest Territories Duane Schreiner, Regional Manager, Alberta & NWT
During her consultations, MP Sidhu received a letter from JDRF Alberta and Northwest Territories. JDRF is a leader in the search to #defeatdiabetes, specifically type 1 diabetes, through research funding and advocacy.
In their letter, JDRF provided a number of recommendations.
First, was to show the public that diabetes is treatable, and that both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are prevalent in the population. As well, they recommended the use of consistent and accessable guidelines on topics such as sodium levels and caloric content for both inside and out of the home. Finally, they encouraged educating high risk populations, and making sure the national strategy makes it easier for people to make healthy choices.
Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto General Hospital – University Health Network – August 8, 2017
MP Sidhu met with The Global Centre for eHealth Innovation, a research institute part of the University Health Network and one of the few institutes devoted to eHealth in the world, combining research and expertise to develop health technologies. eHealth develops apps for diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart failure, lung disease, mental health, and cancer.
Mobile Health is an emerging field with potential to allow for both self-monitoring and self-management in addition to remote monitoring for many diseases and conditions, such as diabetes. This is a field that many of those consulted are exploring with eHealth Innovation being one of them.
To improve health-care options for patients suffering from diabetes, bant, developed by eHealth Innovation, simplifies the management of diabetes and allows for the accommodation of different age groups and ethnicities with support in 11 different languages.
VANCOUVER CONSULTATIONS – July 28, 2017
MP Sidhu met with industry experts in Vancouver, who spoke about guidance and misinformation. While Canadians have sufficient information about healthy eating, there is not enough guidance. This is especially true with regard to unhealthy food advertising. There needs to be a shift from a focus on weight to healthy eating. However, information by itself is not enough. Most people can tell you what is healthy, but a gap exists in what people know and what they do. This is largely due to the influence of environment and socioeconomic status.
At risk populations especially are not receiving enough guidance. South Asian populations, for example, need to be targeted at their own level. When immigrants transition from their original countries to Canada they are likely to pick up unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Moreover, there is a problem with misinformation and information contradictory to leading a healthy lifestyle. There are many initiatives that are already struggling against misinformation that is leading to slow uptake with their programs or from being effective as they can be.
Overall, participants suggested that Canadians need to be reached with fact based information and they need a central place to get this information – Health Canada must be made the go-to place for accurate information Canadians can trust for meaningful change to take place.
WINNIPEG CONSULTATIONS – July 27, 2017
At MP Sidhu’s consultation in Winnipeg, the message was similar to what was heard in previous meetings. Participants said clearly that food insecurity is a major barrier to healthy eating. While people know what food they should be consuming, many cannot access it due to high costs, especially in northern regions of the province. Again, participants said that knowledge does not translate into change. Even with sufficient information on healthy eating and healthy living, many people do not have time to cook at home, or the knowledge of what to cook. What is missing is guidance and access to guidance – especially for vulnerable population groups. For example, education and documentation material aren’t readily available to marginalized communities.
A significant focus of the Winnipeg meeting was on Indigenous People, as they are one of the highest risk populations for development of diabetes. While food insecurity is a known problem here, there are also factors that encourage consumption of unhealthy food items. One participant gave an example of significant costs for produce, whereas junk food and alcohol are inexpensive in isolated communities.
MONTREAL CONSULTATIONS – July 26, 2017
MP Sidhu also met with industry professionals in Quebec, the province that presents the second lowest rate of obesity in Canada. When asked about this, participants suggest that a unique Quebec lifestyle could be a significant factor, emphasizing cycling as a primary means of transportation, and a diet that contains fewer carbohydrates. However, problems still remain. Cooking is still prohibitively expensive due to high ingredient and food costs; moreover, Quebecers spend a large amount of time at work and don’t find the time to cook either.
Many suggestions were made for financial incentives to healthy eating, which would lower the impact on the healthcare system through preventative health. Additionally, participants noted that the removal of the children’s activity tax credit reduces accessibility to physical activity for Canadians, especially those in lower income families.
Regarding the Food Guide, participants said it is not effective, especially for immigrant populations. Many suggested community-based learning should be encouraged, with community and faith leaders setting examples of health eating and healthy living. An example of community programming is school gardening led by Québec en forme. However, without core funding (currently funded by the province), this program will soon end.
OTTAWA HOSPITAL AND DIABETES CANADA – July 25, 2017
A small meeting was held by MP Sidhu in Ottawa with healthcare professionals from The Ottawa Hospital, and representatives of Diabetes Canada. This meeting provided important insight into the role and struggles of dieticians and endocrinologists as they work to defeat diabetes.
While Ottawa has a highly educated population and good access to health care, the participants noted that many aren’t being screened for diabetes. When patients are admitted into the hospital, more than 30% of those admitted already have diabetes, but may not know about it. Early diagnosis could lead to fewer complications and fewer people requiring hospital admittance. It was agreed upon that patients tend to discover diabetes through complications that present themselves in their health.
There was a significant emphasis in this meeting on the note that information will not create behavioural change, and that the environment in which we purchase food, cook and consume food must change. One participant noted that many patients with diabetes will claim they are ‘taking a break’ from eating well to manage their diabetes, despite knowing the complications and risks.
Some of the conversation pointed to a shift away from language that determines healthy or unhealthy choices, but looks rather to wholesome foods. Labeling foods as good and bad can translate these qualities to the individual, and has been seen to be detrimental to changing behaviours.
Dr. HERTZEL C. GERSTEIN – July 14, 2017
Following successful and promising research that suggested ways to reverse diabetes, Dr. Gerstein received significant media attention. During this consultation period, Dr. Gerstein met with MP Sidhu to discuss his findings and the potential impact on the Canadian healthcare landscape.
Dr. Gerstein noted that there is a misconception among society that diabetes is caused by personal health failings, such as poor diet and insufficient exercise. On the contrary, Dr. Gerstein stated that genetics play a more significant role in determining which individuals will develop type 2 diabetes. Environmental conditions, however, increase the chances of onset.
He also noted that 1 in 10 Canadians live with diabetes, and that within sub-populations, this rate is even greater. Particularly, he specified that those in lower socioeconomic conditions were more likely to develop diabetes (assuming they are genetically predisposed to it). Some of the contributing factors include food insecurity, non-walkable communities, and complicated food labelling.
Estimating the cost of diabetes on the Canadian health care system at $13-20 billion per year, Dr. Gerstein suggested action to promote nutritious eating and normalize physical activity should be priorities of the federal government. Looking at heath as a public good, Dr. Gerstein suggested attention to the onset and complications of diabetes should be an important priority for Health Canada.
SHERIDAN HEALTHY EATING AND DIABETES CONSULTATIONS – June 29, 2017
MP Sidhu hosted this first consultation to start a discussion on how to proceed with changes to the food guide and Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy.
This comprehensive consultation covered a number of points such as reviewing case studies from other countries, whether Canadians receive enough guidance and education to make healthy choices, societal challenges and issues with stigma, helping high risk populations, and how to support the varied diets of Canadians in the revised food guide among other issues.
Overwhelmingly, participants stated that the nutrition fact table on food labels is unclear, and difficult for many Canadians – and new Canadians – to understand and put into practice. Many participants indicated that front-of-package labeling would be a better approach, but requires a clear display of nutritional value to properly inform consumers.
HEART & STROKE- June 29, 2017
MP Sidhu was on hand at a discussion hosted by the Heart and Stroke foundation to discuss healthy living for seniors. MP Sidhu highlighted the need to take leadership with our own health and joined in on the conversation about diets, activities, and habits to keep healthy and reduce the risk of disease. Alongside MP Sidhu where Harmeet Kaur, a registered nurse with Trillium Health, Firdaus Ali, a South Asian cultural specialist with Heart and Stroke, and Megan Okeefe, also of Heart and Stroke.
NOVO NORDISK – June 17, 2017
MP Sidhu’s meeting with Novo Nordisk centered around a potential pilot project by the World Economic Forum to be run in Ontario focusing on value-based healthcare within the area of diabetes (Type II).
The vision for the project was defined as “to contribute to a continuously improving value-based health care system in Canada that reduces the prevalence of diabetes and rate of complications in the Canadian population by 2021, while significantly improving quality of life and reducing the average cost per patient outcome (clinical, quality of life, socioeconomical)”.
Beyond this project, other issues were discussed such as the drastic need to prevent the development of diabetes by honing in on early childhood education for diabetes and healthy eating, accessibility challenges for newcomers and Canadians alike in meeting with specialists and other practitioners, and a discussion of the abundance of data available in the GTA and what needs to be done with it.
DR. LORRAINE LIPSCOMBE – June 16, 2017
Dr. Lorraine Lipscombe is the Director at the Centre for Integrated Diabetes Canada, a scientist at the Women’s College Research Institute, and an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.
In MP Sidhu’s meeting with Dr. Lipscombe, Dr. Lipscombe brought forward the issue of women being at a higher risk of developing diabetes following the first five years of pregnancy. The rate being even higher for women within the South Asian population who have an increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes following 10 years after pregnancy.
In response to this Dr. Lipscombe highlighted the ADAPT (Avoiding Diabetes After Pregnancy Trial) program. This would involve diabetes educators counselling over the phone for 12 weeks along with one in-person visit from a health coach. Dr. Lipscombe explained that this method is preferable to combined programs, as women are less likely to keep up in combined programs. Moreover, the ADAPT Program’s timeline ensures that families stay motivated to remain healthy as post-pregnancy is a time when women, and their families, are vulnerable to developing unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Moreover, MP Sidhu and Dr. Lipscombe engaged in a discussion about aligning choices made by the average person with recommendations by health experts, the development of a Pan-Canadian registry of diabetics in order to recruit people for studies, and looking at case studies of countries experiencing success and applying those lessons in Canada.
3rd Diabetes Caucus Meeting, May 29th 2017
MP Sidhu took part in the 3rd Diabetes Caucus Meeting, along with Joël Lightbound, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, JDRF, Diabète Québec, and Diabetes Canada. They heard from Loblaws, Sobeys, and Dr. Mehta, each presenting their views on how best to #defeatdiabetes.
LMC Meeting with Ronnie Aronson, May 26th 2017
MP Sidhu met with Ronnie Aronson, the Chief Medical Officer of LMC Diabetes and Endocrinology and a renowned diabetes specialist. They discussed the diabetes epidemic in Canada and brainstormed ideas to decrease the rate.
Dr Karen Cross Meeting, May 24th 2017
MP Sidhu met with Dr. Karen Cross to discuss the alarming rate of growth in amputations amongst people with Diabetic Foot Ulcers (DFUs). The cost associated with DFUs and amputation is enormous, and prevention efforts could have 10 to 40 times the cost savings of amputations.
Dr. Cross discussed her solution to this issue in the form of her MIMOSA (MultIspectral MObile tiSsue Assesment) device.
Dr. Cross outlined how MIMOSA utilizes mHealth to allow patients to photograph their feet using near-infrared light to allow detection of tissue health. The device would then allow predictions to be made as to when an ulcer might form and in turn prevent both DFUs and amputations.
Coordinated Care Centers that would house a variety of different healthcare professionals and specialists were also discussed. These professionals could then directly consult with one another and provide diabetic patients the best care possible. This allows for remote monitoring when paired with the MIMOSA device. For example, indigenous populations living in remote regions would be able to use the device to send updates to health care providers significantly lowering the burden of living with diabetes.
Dr Fung Meeting, May 24th 2017
Dr Jason Fung and MP Sidhu spoke about his new book and his strategies on combating diabetes through a “reversing diabetes” process that involves intermittent fasting. Discussing research and ideas like these can help Canadians prevent and manage their diabetes. Dr. Fung is an advocate of the idea of fasting to bring down insulin levels. According to Dr. Fung, fasting encourages both weight loss, and dropping insulin levels, and in turn, helps with the management and control of Type II Diabetes.
4th Annual Stop Diabetes Event with Dr. Harpreet Bajjaj, May 14th 2017
MP Sidhu took part in the 4th annual Stop Diabetes event, intended to educate the public on how to prevent diabetes. The great Ernestine Shepherd, one of the oldest competitive female bodybuilders, shared her knowledge on how to stay healthy as we grow. Being able to speak at this event allowed MP Sidhu to spread awareness about the diabetes epidemic and allowed her to give tips and tricks to #defeatdiabetes.
Diabetes and Ramadan event Rexdale, May 5th 2017
MP Sidhu was joined by a doctor from Dubai to speak to a mosque full of Canadian Muslims about what they should be doing before and after they break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan in order to regulate their insulin levels.
2nd Diabetes Caucus Meeting, February 7th 2017
MP Sidhu chaired the All-Party Diabetes Caucus and heard from brilliant Canadian researchers on the advancements being made towards a cure for diabetes. Following in the footsteps of Sir Frederick Banting, the Caucus is determined to find a cure. The Caucus heard research from the Canadian Diabetes Association, Dr. Jan Hux, and Medtronic Canada.
Visit to Banting House, January 19th 2017
MP Sidhu visited the birthplace of insulin in London, ON. The Banting House is the place where Sir Frederick Banting discovered insulin on October 31, 1920. Apart from his discovery of insulin he was a war hero and painter. Through further medical research and innovation we can one day eradicate diabetes and on that day the flame outside the house will be extinguished.
William Osler Hospital tour of the Diabetes Outpatient Clinic, January 17th 2017
–MP Sidhu’s tour of William Osler gave her a hands-on experience of seeing the large amounts of Canadians suffering from diabetes, keeping her motivated to #defeatdiabetes.
South Asian Diabetes Expo in Brampton, November 26th 2016
MP Sidhu attended a diabetes expo which discussed how people could modify their diets, how to manage and prevent diabetes, as well as healthy living tips and recipes. Through having her own booth, MP Sidhu had the opportunity to directly educate Canadians about diabetes.
Meeting with CDA, STOP Diabetes Foundation, and Brampton Wellness Centre on Food Guide Consultation –November 25th 2016
MP Sidhu met with Joanne from the Canadian Diabetes Association, Amanpreet from the STOP Diabetes Foundation Inc., and Alex from the Brampton Wellness Centre for a Food Guide consultation. It is important to get the opinions of health care providers to help support families make better food choices and allow Canadians to live healthier and longer lives.
Food Guide Consultations – FCPC, November 25th 2016
After the Federal Government made changes to the food guide, MP Sidhu held a consultation about healthy eating and proper exercise, which is an important contributing factor to #defeatdiabetes.
Canadian Diabetes Association’s Reception on Parliament Hill – November 24th 2016
MP Sidhu spoke at the Canadian Diabetes Association’s reception on Parliament Hill about how MPs can do more to raise awareness about the 11 million Canadians with diabetes or prediabetes.
With Jane Hux, Chief Science Officer at Diabetes Canada, and Russell Williams, Vice President Government Relations and Public Policy – November 23rd, 2016
JDRF Meeting – November 21st, 2016
MP Sidhu met with Mirren Hewett and Josh Williams, as well as Elizabeth Moreau and Garth Lancaster from JDRF Canada for Kids for a Cure on the Hill. Many youth came to talk about their experience living with Type 1 diabetes, and on the research helping to #defeatdiabetes.
Canadian Diabetes Breakfast, November 17th 2016
MP Sidhu was a keynote speaker at a breakfast hosted by the Canadian Diabetes Association to discuss a new peer-reviewed white paper which examines Canada’s Type 2 diabetes epidemic and patient-centric models of care. The white paper is authored by leading diabetes healthcare professionals and researchers.
Canon in Brampton, November 4th 2016
MP Sidhu attended the Grand Opening of the new Canon Canada Headquarters in Brampton South. Canon is becoming a leading innovator in medical technology by developing various medical imaging, optometry, and x-ray devices, including a camera that can help screen for diabetes.
Canadian Diabetes Association Conference, October 27th 2016
–MP Sidhu attended a conference to spread awareness about important diabetes related issues. She took place in discussions such as how working with the CDA can help make diabetes preventable and manageable. Through debate and discussion, we are able to get closer to #defeatingdiabetes.
1st All Party Diabetes Caucus Meeting, October 25th 2016
At the first meeting of the Parliamentary All-Party Diabetes Caucus MP Sidhu was named the Co-Chair and the Caucus Champion for the government caucus. In her 18 years as a diabetes educator and research coordinator, MP Sidhu has seen the burden of diabetes on individuals, families’ finances, and the system. Today, 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Another Canadian is diagnosed with diabetes every three minutes. This Caucus is another step to #defeatdiabetes.
Community Info Session in Brampton with Sonia Sidhu and CDA, October 14th 2016
This event was organized by MP Sidhu to spread awareness about the dangers of diabetes and the measures that can be taken in order to prevent the disease. It is important that Canadians are educated on how to stop the spread of diabetes and live a healthy lifestyle. Together, we can #defeatdiabetes.