As a first-generation Canadian born to immigrant parents from Guyana, I am passionate about my family history, culture, practices and communities. As a Master of Science candidate in Health Research Methodology, I have a keen interest in epidemiological sciences as well as disease prevention and control.
And as a member of the Indo-Caribbean community, I believe it is crucial to discuss the rising prevalence of diabetes among Canada’s South Asian communities. As an individual with a family history of diabetes, this public health concern hits close to home as my grandmother and several family members have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the body cannot create a sufficient amount of insulin (a hormone that aids in the control of glucose in the bloodstream) or cannot adequately use the insulin created.
In Canada, South Asian communities are at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to the general population. As a result, South Asian populations experience significant morbidity and mortality.
The pandemic laid bare the structural inequalities in our health-care system.
The pandemic laid bare the structural inequalities in our health-care system. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, members of marginalized communities were more likely to experience low socioeconomic statuses, poor housing conditions and limited accessibility to health-care resources.
To address the prevalence of diabetes in our racialized communities, we must look at what needs to be done at a structural level. There are many gaps within the health-care system that need to be bridged. In racialized communities, systemic racism has led to a significant lack of trust in our health-care professionals and has increased the number of coronavirus patients as well as vaccine hesitancy within racialized communities.
Our experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic have illustrated the importance of integrating culturally safe spaces within our institutions and practices. To improve the health status of South Asian communities in Canada with respect to Type 2 diabetes, health-care professionals and academics must address this disease by providing culturally relevant education that acknowledges culture, built environment, education, working conditions and access to health care. If patients understand the disease at hand, this can lead to better diabetes management and better long-term outcomes. Indeed, culturally relevant education has shown positive results in South Asian adolescents with a family history of diabetes.”
Those with influence in health care and research must bring attention to health inequities and create interventions that aim to dismantle obstacles that South Asian populations face. A 2015 study found that language and communication difficulties were “significant barriers to receiving and understanding diabetes education.” The study also cited the lack of specific details on a South Asian tailored diabetic diet and concerns about the long-term safety of diabetes medications.
As an ethnoculturally diverse nation, the future of Canada’s public health sciences must be a world of cultural inclusivity. Culturally appropriate education is a step in the right direction.