Advocates play an important role during elections.

By speaking up and asking candidates important questions about the issues impacting people living with and affected by diabetes, you can help affect important changes to services and policies.

The following are three key questions you can ask your candidates in person, on the phone phone or via email or social media to help put diabetes on the election agenda.

Do you support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages because of the connection between high consumption of these drinks and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

What are sugar-sweetened beverages?

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages include soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, lemonade and iced tea. They usually contain 10 teaspoons of sugar while containing few nutrients.

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages are now the largest single source of sugar in the American diet, likely similar in Canada.

Why is this important?

  • Excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages creates a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes – regardless of a person’s weight.

  • Being overweight or obese are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Sugar consumption is linked to weight gain. Currently, 60 percent of adult Canadians and one-third of those aged 5 to 17 years old are overweight or obese.

Will it work?

  • Mexico recently added a 10% tax to drinks with added sugar – resulting in a 6% decline in purchases in 2014.

  • Other governments – France, and regions in the United States – tax sugar-sweetened beverages to decrease consumption and use the revenues for health promotion activities.

  • Diabetes Canada recommends that tax revenues generated be used to promote the health of Canadians through diabetes management and prevention programs.

Do you support the establishment of a national pharmacare program so that people with diabetes and its complications can afford medications they need?

What is national pharmacare?

  • A national pharmacare program would be a publicly funded and administered insurance plan for prescription drugs.

  • Currently, prescription drug coverage in Canada varies greatly. Provinces only need to fund prescription drugs administered in hospitals and each has a different approach to funding them outside of hospitals. New programs have been created over time in provinces, but they vary between provinces.

Why is this important?

  • Canadians with a chronic disease, such as diabetes, who do not have public coverage or private insurance can have high out-of-pocket costs.

  • A 2011 Diabetes Canada report found that 57% of surveyed people living with diabetes were unable to follow their therapies, including medications, because of the cost. This leaves them at greater risk of the serious health complications of diabetes. Further, almost all Canadians with diabetes have high drug costs, totalling more than $1,500 or three percent of their income per year.

  • Over the past decade, rates of the major complications of diabetes such as heart and kidney disease have been cut in half almost entirely as a result of the use of prescription drugs but because of cost barriers, not all Canadians are enjoying these gains in health.

Will it work?

  • Except for Canada, every developed country with a universal health-care system has universal drug coverage, including Britain, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden

  • A national pharmacare program could reduce overall government and private spending on prescription drugs by $7.3 billion annually.

Will you expand the disability tax credit (DTC) to include all people with type 1 diabetes?

What is the DTC?

  • The DTC is a non-refundable tax credit used to reduce income tax. A person with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions may claim the disability amount once eligible.

  • One of the eligibility criteria is that a person must dedicate 14 hours per week for life-sustaining therapy. People with type 1 diabetes spend more time than that managing their diabetes, but many activities, such as blood sugar testing, are ineligible.

Why is this important?

  • On average, a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in childhood, beginning a lifelong, daily regime of blood sugar monitoring, dose calculation and insulin administration.

  • The additional financial burden of out of pocket costs can be a significant challenge to optimal management of the disease.

  • The complexity, effort and time required to self-manage diabetes is significant, involving as many as 600 steps every day, with the insulin injection process alone involving 40 steps.

  • DTC-eligible activities related to insulin therapy do not fully cover the activities or time required to determine dosage and administer multiple daily insulin therapy.

Will it work?

  • Including all activities related to insulin therapy within the DTC criteria is consistent with the DTC’s intent to relieve some of the burden of managing a life-sustaining therapy.

  • Expanding the DTC to all people with type 1 diabetes would provide financial relief and fairness, with an estimated cost of $100-150 million – a small amount in comparison to the $14 billion Canadians governments spend treating all types of diabetes.

The Diabetes Charter for Canada

Diabetes Canada’s election items have been developed in the context of the Diabetes Charter for Canada. Its guiding principles are to:

  • ensure that people who live with diabetes are treated with dignity and respect

  • advocate for equitable access to high quality diabetes care and supports

  • enhance the health and quality of life for people who live with diabetes and their caregivers

The Charter underscores government responsibilities to:

  • create comprehensive policies and plans for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diabetes and its complications

  • guarantee fair access to care, education, prescribed medications, devices, and supplies for all Canadians, regardless of income or where they live

  • address the unique needs and disparities in care of vulnerable populations who experience higher rates of diabetes, its complications and the significant barriers to care and support they experience

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