Knowledge Resources & Publications

ISBN (Print) : 978-1-77368-205-1 | ISBN (Online) : 978-1-77368-206-8

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes among First Nations and considerations for prevention

February 2019

Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in Canada and a major cause of morbidity and mortality. The disease, which can present in several forms, has been expanding rapidly, driven by both an aging population and increased prevalence of a largely preventable form of the disease, Type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes varies widely across age, geographic location, racial groups, and by socio-economic and health status. Indigenous peoples in Canada, in particular First Nations, bear a disproportionate burden of the disease due to complex interactions of multiple determinants of health, many of which are rooted in colonial processes and structures that have altered the socio-economic, political and cultural systems of Indigenous peoples and communities. These processes have resulted in health inequities, socio-economic disparities and associated lifestyle risk factors that contribute to the development of Type 2 diabetes and make it challenging to cope with the disease.

Despite intensive governmental efforts to develop effective diabetes policies, healthcare practices, and prevention and management programs for Indigenous populations, these interventions have shown limited effectiveness to date. This paper provides an overview of diabetes among the First Nations population. Specifically, it summarizes what is known about the prevalence of and trends in diabetes among First Nations, the factors that increase their risk of developing the disease, the barriers and facilitators of diabetes prevention interventions, and the features of interventions that have shown some measure of success for First Nations communities.


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