There’s help for Islanders living with diabetes

Diabetes clinical leader Martha St. Pierre demonstrates an insulin pump.

Supporting Island families -

If you have diabetes and live on Prince Edward Island, you’re not alone – and the provincial government has experts committed to helping you enjoy a healthy life.

An estimated 14,000 Islanders live with diabetes, which can be more than just a shocking diagnosis; it means a lifetime commitment to watching what we eat, getting enough physical activity, and closely monitoring the indicators of health. Diabetes clinical leader Martha St. Pierre and her Health PEI colleagues work with Islanders to manage their disease.

“We provide guidance and information to help people reduce the harm that diabetes can cause so they can live the healthiest life possible,” St. Pierre said. The government’s Provincial Diabetes Program helped roughly 4,400 Islanders last year and is available at locations across the province to anyone diagnosed with type-1, type-2, or gestational diabetes.

“We try to provide service close to where people live, as much as possible,” she said. “We want to provide helpful information to our clients – and for children and youth – that includes information and support to parents, other family members, and schools as well.”

Registered nurses, registered dietitians, a social worker, and a nurse practitioner with the Provincial Diabetes Program offer information and support including:

  • "getting started" classes if you are new to diabetes;
  • "at risk" classes if you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes;
  • individual assessment and counselling for people of all ages with diabetes;
  • insulin Instruction to help with beginning insulin injections and adjusting insulin doses; and
  • insulin pump assessment, education, and ongoing support for all ages.

There’s also financial assistance – available from the province – to help with some of the costs associated with diabetes.

  • The Diabetes Drug Program provides assistance with the cost of approved medications and supplies including insulin products, oral medications, urine-testing materials, and blood glucose test strips.
  • The Insulin Pump Program helps with the cost of approved insulin pumps and supplies for children and youth up to age 19 who are living with type 1 diabetes.
  • The Retinopathy Screening Program to provide Islanders, living with diabetes early assessment by an optometrist, and appropriate referral for treatment of diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness.

The Health PEI Diabetes Strategy 2014-2017 will be renewed later this year to meet its vision of “improved health for all Islanders including those at risk of, or living with diabetes, through enhanced diabetes prevention, detection and management.”

Unfortunately, many people with diabetes haven’t yet been diagnosed. To learn more about type 2 diabetes and your risk factors, take five minutes and complete the online risk calculator known as CANRISK at www.healthycanadians.gc.ca/en/canrisk.

“Especially with type-2 diabetes, it can often be silent, so people don’t necessarily feel unwell,” St. Pierre said. “But if blood sugars are high, then over time diabetes can cause significant damage to blood vessels and organs such as the heart and kidneys. We can help limit that damage by helping people learn to better control their diabetes.”

St. Pierre said that in her experience, people living with diabetes can improve their health and quality of life simply by understanding their diabetes and staying on top of it.

“I just want people to know that there are ways to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and if you have diabetes you can definitely live a very healthy life,” she said. “We are here to help.”

Learn more about the Provincial Diabetes Program.


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