Ethnic communities need better diabetic care

There’s a new doctor in town and he wants to bring to our attention a serious problem that affects many of us in Scarborough.

“Many diabetics go undiagnosed because they ignore the symptoms,” says Dr. Farrukh Khan, the new medical director of the adult diabetes program at Rouge Valley Hospital.

Dr. Farrukh Khan, director of the diabetes program at Rouge Valley Hospital, explains why residents from our community need more diabetic care.


Khan chose to work in this area because there is a high ethnic population and certain groups are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, especially South East Asians, he said. As a South Asian himself, Dr. Khan said he knows many people coming from this region ignore the symptoms of diabetes.

“I realized this was a community where I can fully utilize my services because there’re a lot of ethnic groups and they need more diabetic care,” he said.

Since diabetes symptoms are mild, most patients go to the doctor only when they are feeling really sick. Khan plans to encourage local residents to be proactive and take preventive measures.

“We would set up diabetes testing camps in malls where we can check people’s sugar levels and also we’ll have classes for cooking healthy,” he said. “It’s about educating people on a good diet and plenty of exercise.”

In the three weeks he’s been at Rouge Valley so far, Khan has been seeing about 40 diabetes patients a week. There is a shortage of endocrinologists and local family doctors have asked him to work with their diabetic patients.

“Diabetes is a genetic disease so it’s really important to discuss family history with patients to find out if they have any diabetic relatives,” said Khan. “I also make a plan with patients and, if they’re overweight, I refer them to a family doctor to make sure they don’t have diabetes.”

A dialysis can cost from $50,000 to $80,000 annually. Khan said it makes more sense to invest in preventive measures.

“If the prevalence for diabetes is an average of five per cent, an almost similar number goes undiagnosed. So the population actually has a prevalence of double that number,” he said.

To improve the diagnosis system, more staff and sources are needed, Khan added.

He is now studying the patient population so that he can start the awareness campaign in about eight months.