Diabetes Month: More supports available for Islanders

Minister Robert Henderson and Martha St. Pierre (left) and Marilyn Barrett of Health PEI

Islanders living with diabetes – including pregnant women and those requiring complex care – have more support available than ever before.

With $160,000 in Health PEI’s 2017-18 operating budget, Island women who need more intensive diabetes management during their pregnancy can now get more coverage for their diabetes test strips, and a full-time nurse practitioner will staff the Provincial Diabetes Program. In honour of November as Diabetes Awareness Month, Health PEI is offering free diabetes screening and risk assessment clinics throughout the month in locations across the province –visit for a complete listing.

“By adding clinical staff and alleviating some of the financial burden faced by Islanders with diabetes, we are improving our health care system, supports, and services,” Health and Wellness Minister Robert Henderson said. “Diabetes is affecting more and more Islanders and their families, and we are working to make the right care available when and where it’s needed.”

More than 14,000 Islanders live with diabetes, nearly one in 10. An average of 860 new cases are diagnosed each year, with complex and gestational diabetes care needs seeing the highest increases.

Pregnant women living with diabetes need intensive management including frequent blood-glucose monitoring -- up to eight times a day -- to ensure a healthy outcome for both mother and baby during and after the pregnancy. The rate of gestational diabetes (new onset diabetes during pregnancy) on Prince Edward Island has increased 90 per cent over the past three years, with approximately 75 Island women developing gestational diabetes during their pregnancy each year.

The diabetes program’s new nurse practitioner - previously funded on a temporary basis -- is an important resource for Islanders living with diabetes.  Nurse practitioners provide timely access to primary diabetes care, including medication management and treatment adjustment. This is important to maintaining a good quality of life and preventing or delaying the onset of other health complications such as heart and kidney disease, loss of eyesight, or loss of lower limbs.

“With increasing prevalence, the health needs of Islanders living with diabetes have resulted in greater demand on the Provincial Diabetes Program,” diabetes physician specialist Dr. Lenley Adams said. The addition of a diabetes nurse practitioner adds a tremendous support to diabetes care, and more intensive monitoring of pregnant women with diabetes will help to improve outcomes of moms and their babies – which helps Islanders living with diabetes to live a healthy and active life.”

In addition, the Provincial Diabetes Program provides support to women living with pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes who become pregnant.

The added diabetes test-strip support will increase coverage for pregnant women who are prescribed insulin to 250 test strips per month (from 100 test strips per month). While test strip coverage for Islanders who are prescribed insulin is provided through the PEI Pharmacare Program, previously the number of strips provided was insufficient to cover the frequency of testing required, resulting in additional cost for many women (minimum $120 per month) that is often not financially possible.

For more information about the Provincial Diabetes Program, visit

Media contact:
Amanda Hamel



Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes diagnosed, with a higher prevalence in adults over age 40.

The most common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • unusual thirst
  • frequent urination
  • weight change (gain or loss)
  • extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • blurred vision
  • frequent or reoccurring infections
  • cuts and/or bruises that are slow to heal
  • tingling or numbness in hands or feet
  • trouble getting or maintaining an erection

About the Provincial Diabetes Program: The Provincial Diabetes Program provides leadership and expertise in diabetes through education and support to clients to assist them in maintaining or enhancing their quality of life:

  • information about living with diabetes to people with diabetes and their families;
  • "Getting Started" classes for those new to diabetes;
  • "At Risk" classes for those identified as being at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes;
  • one-on-one instruction on carbohydrate counting;
  • individual assessment and counseling for persons with diabetes of all ages;
  • ongoing follow-up for clients to assist with diabetes management in an effort to live a healthy life with diabetes and prevent long term complications;
  • initiation and adjustment of insulin with clients and families;
  • education and quarterly follow-up to children and adolescents with diabetes in coordination with the pediatricians;
  • insulin pump initiation and follow up for Islanders of all ages, including children and youth;
  • electronic information for clients with diabetes and health professionals working in the field; and
  • education for health professionals and the public through professional education days.

Since the provincial strategy was released on July 1, 2014, approximately 6,900 Islanders have accessed services offered by the Provincial Diabetes Program.

In July 2015, Health PEI partnered with Island optometrists to deliver province-wide access to diabetic retinopathy testing.  Since then, approximately 7,500 Islanders have accessed this program which provides early assessment and appropriate referral for treatment of diabetic retinopathy – one of the leading causes of blindness.

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