Why is Newfoundland & Labrador still without a diabetes strategy?
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Finance and Treasury Board President Cathy Bennet delivered the province’s budget on April 6 in the House of Assembly. Unfortunately, the budget did not include any mention of investments in the priority areas Diabetes Canada has been urging the government to consider, including a long awaited Diabetes Strategy.
“This budget is concerning, as we have been providing the government and Health Minister with evidence to support the need for such a strategy in a province where the need is the greatest and diabetes is at epidemic rates,” says Jake Reid, senior leader of government relations for Diabetes Canada. “In our 2016 Report on Diabetes in Newfoundland and Labrador, we urged the government to take action on diabetes issues. For the sake of our health-care system and the health of all citizens it is important this no longer be ignored.”
An estimated 179,000 Newfoundland and Labrador residents, or 33 per cent of the provincial population, are living with diabetes or prediabetes. The province has the highest prevalence of diabetes among all jurisdictions in Canada. Risk factors such as the rapidly aging population; high rates of overweight and obesity in adults and youth; lack of physical activity and a healthy diet; and heavy use of tobacco are estimated to increase type 2 diabetes prevalence in the province.
Diabetes Canada was pleased to see the $2.5 million investment to support family doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and paramedics to expand primary health-care teams. However, a diabetes strategy is needed to help coordinate better diabetes management and care.
A few other notable health-related announcements in the budget included:
- $1 million commitment toward active living programs that are targeted at youth.
- $1.3 million investment in healthy eating, supporting groups such as Kids Eat Smart, Food First NL, and the School Lunch Association.
- Continued support of smoking cessation by contributing $325,000 to the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association’s Smokers’ Helpline.
“While we acknowledge these few important investments in the overall health of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, we cannot ignore the absence of a diabetes strategy, and other considerations such as a sugary drinks levy that would help raise revenue, improve health, and dedicate funding to priority health areas,” says Reid. “It’s time for this government to honour their election campaign promise of implementing a new diabetes prevention and management program. If we’re going to move closer to ending diabetes, we need to ensure strategic integration and implementation of evidence-based priorities.”