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Diabetes plan in the works

Territory earns 'C' for dealing with disease

Jennifer McPhee
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 12/01) - The government is working to improve how it deals with diabetes.

It's welcome news for people dealing with the disease after a recent survey of government policies and programs gave the NWT a 'C' grade.

Diabetes Educator Mabel Wong teaches workshops to people with diabetes at the Stanton Medical Centre. She uses a replica of a human liver, pancreas and a pound of fat to show what diabetes is. - Merle Robillard/NNSL photo

The Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) criticized the North for its lack of data on the number of people in the territory with diabetes.

The report found the Department of Health has few diabetes-focused partnerships with non-profit organizations, has no diabetes-specific programs, and has delegated important program and policy areas to hospitals.

It noted that no dedicated funding for diabetes exists at the territorial level.

While one of two part-time diabetes educators agrees with the CDA's assessment, Mabel Wong sees signs of improvement.

Two part-time diabetes educators are employed by the Stanton Regional Health Board. They spend two weeks a month teaching workshops to diabetes patients at Stanton Medical Centre.

"All these things are true," she said. "We've come along way from where we were."

Not all bad

The report did praise the NWT for giving residents unprecedented access to drugs and supplies and for participating in the creation of a national diabetes registry.

The registry, funded by the federal government, will provide standardized national data on diabetes and its related-complications.

Territorially, the department plans to use the registry to assess the prevalence of diabetes, to weigh health care costs and to inform health promotion campaigns.

The study also acknowledged that a NWT Diabetes Advisory Committee exists and the committee is working on a plan for a draft strategy.

Karen Willy, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, said the draft strategy is a major task that requires extensive consultation with aboriginal partners, and health and social services boards.

Willy declined to comment directly on the CDA study.

Wong said a territorial-wide strategy to address gaps and decide how much money should be spent in different areas is crucial.

"As someone who works in direct care and treatment, we feel there are a lot of gaps," she said.

"That's the issue here," she said. "There is no strategy."

Dabetes information