Diabetes

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic

Definition

Diabetes is a chronic health condition where the body is unable to produce insulin and properly break down sugar (glucose) in the blood. Type 1 diabetes, which usually begins before the age of 30, is a life-long condition in which the pancreas stops making insulin. Type 2 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed after the age of 45, occurs when insulin is produced but not used properly by the body.

 
 
Sex Issues

Overall, men have higher rates of diabetes. However, women between the ages of 20-34 have higher rates than men, likely due to the impact of gestational diabetes[1], which is currently not tracked effectively. Gestational diabetes, which presents in non-diabetic women during pregnancy, is usually temporary, but is an important health concern for women as it is a risk factor for developing diabetes later in life[2]. 

Maternal diabetes is also a serious health concern for women who are diabetic before they become pregnant. Women with gestational or maternal diabetes need extensive pre-pregnancy planning, as well as extensive management during their pregnancy, due to the associated risks of spontaneous abortion and higher levels of newborn morbidity and mortality[3]. 

 
 
Gender Issues

It is important to determine the link between prevalence rates for low-income women and diabetes as low-income women often have limited access to proper nutrition, physical activity, or blood sugar testing that would help them manage their diabetes. Further, low-income women may face difficulty with food shortages, which often results in the women compromising their own food intake for other family members[4]. This is problematic for women who are diabetic and need a nutritious diet. As well, food shortages are especially detrimental to pregnant women because of the possibility of low birth weights and increased chances of the children developing diabetes in later life. 

 
 
Diversity

Diabetes is a significant health concern for Aboriginal populations; including earlier onset, greater severity at diagnosis, and lack of accessible services, resulting in greater complications of the disease[5]. Approximately two-thirds of the Aboriginal population diagnosed with diabetes are women[6]. Furthermore, Aboriginal women’s rates are 5x higher compared to non-Aboriginal women, which is an important health concern for women of child-bearing age due to complications that may arise during pregnancy and thereafter, for both mother and child[7]. 

 
 
Critique

Most provincial and national administrative data sets do not include gestational and/or maternal diabetes in their definitions, nor do they differentiate between type I and type II diabetes, which results in finding accurate statistics difficult. There exists minimal data on diabetes for ethnic/cultural groups other than Aboriginal Canadians.

 
 
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