Diabetes crisis in Jane-Finch neighbourhood focus of York-led community forum

The high level of Type 2 diabetes in the Black Creek neighbourhood of northwest Toronto is imposing tremendous pain and suffering on a largely visible minority population, according to community health workers, researchers and educators who will meet Thursday at a community forum to begin developing an action plan to combat the disease.

York’s Health Leadership & Learning Network has partnered with the Black Creek Community Health Centre and the Toronto District School Board to bring members of the community together for the Diabetes: Perspectives for Action – Community Forum on Nov. 11, from 6 to 8pm at Westview Centennial Secondary School, 755 Oakdale Rd., North York.

Right: Maps of Toronto show the overlap between the areas of low income, visible minorities and the incidence of diabetes. Click maps to see interactive version. Courtesy of the Toronto Star

The forum will discuss the increasing incidence of Type 2 diabetes in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, strategies to prevent it and community resources to improve the health of people living with the disease.

Income inequality is on the rise in Canada along with a parallel increase in diabetes mortality, especially in low-income neighbourhoods such as Jane-Finch, according to a recent York study that has been published online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Health Policy.

Dennis Raphael, a professor in the School of Health Policy & Management at York and a co-author of the study, says it clearly shows that low income is associated with a higher risk of developing the disease, even when other risk factors such as obesity are taken into account. Separate maps of Toronto that show areas of low income, visible minorities and the incidence of diabetes clearly show the overlap between the three, says Raphael, who will speak first at the event.

Three representatives of the Black Creek Community Health Centre will speak about their work in the community. Community health worker Michelle Westin will discuss her experiences helping residents to identify and address issues related to diabetes prevention and management. Lisa Martin, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, will speak about the importance of access to adequate resources in managing diabetes, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. Carla Da Mota, a diabetes nurse educator who has witnessed an increase in both the number of clients with diabetes and complications they experience due to poorly managed diabetes, will talk about her experiences in promoting prevention and management of the disease through education.

Professor Lesley Beagrie, associate dean, professional & global programs in York’s Faculty of Health, will moderate the panel.

The Toronto District School Board has recently launched a Diabetes Awareness Strategy. Annie Appleby, superintendent of education for Ward 1 in the northwest part of Toronto – where the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes is at eight per cent – will speak about the schools’ efforts to promote healthy choices and change the behaviours of staff, students, and even families.

For more information, visit the Faculty of Health website.