In 2011, the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) reported that Canada had a higher prevalence of Type 2 diabetes than any other affluent, industrialized country. The association predicted that by 2020, one in every three people will be affected by diabetes.
A worsening economic picture is contributing to the increased rate of diabetes. Recently, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that a Canadian dollar is now valued at less than 69 U.S. cents; the weakness of the currency is being caused by a drop in the price of oil. Canada sources much of its fruit and vegetables from the U.S., making this currency mismatch a disaster for consumers. Grocers are being forced to increase prices anywhere from two percent to four percent, according to a report in the Winnepeg Free Press.
In Manitoba those rising prices are causing many consumers to reach for more affordable, unhealthy choices that are calorie-rich and nutrient-poor, according to a CDA official. Many Manitobans already lack regular access to fresh produce, as they live far from grocery stores. Manitoba already has one of the highest obesity rates (24.5%) in Canada. By the end of 2016, the rate of diabetes in the province is expected to increase by just over 17% from its 2012 level.
There are some organizations trying to help, like the non-profit NorWest Co-op. This organization offers free programs and classes to increase awareness about healthy eating. It also holds subsidized community farmers markets.
The problem is not a uniquely Canadian one, according to a Medical Daily report. In 2014, researchers with the USDA found that average blood sugar levels of study participants rose along with food prices in 35 U.S. communities. Such findings suggest that programs that help low-income individuals have better access to affordable and healthy food might pay off in lower long-term health care bills.
Editor’s Note – 3/16/2016 – This story has been edited to correct the date of the CDA report from 2015 to 2011.