Kerry Bruder, Regional President of the Canadian Diabetes Association, addresses at the South Asian Canadian Diabetes Expo on Nov. 30.

Diabetes targets the South Asian Community

Culture puts community at greater risk of the disease, expo told

Who knew that food, as simple as rice could be a cause of diabetes?

Community members met at the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto on Sheppard Avenue East on Nov. 30 to discuss just that, with the focus on South Asians, who are especially susceptible to the disease.

“South Asians have a higher chance of being at risk of diabetes because of the culture,” said Keith Lai, a volunteer for the Carefirst Organization, a family health team that focuses on the risk of diabetes within the South Asian community. “They eat a lot of things, such as white rice, which they don’t know actually has a lot of sugar, but they don’t taste anything, so they think it won’t hurt them if they eat it.”

The event, a collaboration between the Canadian Diabetes Association and the South Asian Diabetes Chapter (SADC) of the association, was held to educate all members of the community.

SADC was itself formed due to the special vulnerability of the South Asian community to the disease.

“There was a need to bring a chapter, some sort of sub-section of diabetes which will work with the community and so we put a chapter together,” SADC chair Siva Swaminathan said. “There were five people from the South Asian community from all walks of life; doctors, dieticians, a person living with Type 2 diabetes….  I, myself, am a person with Type 1 diabetes. So we all came and put this chapter together.”

SADC focuses on reaching out to the community, with its first expo taking place the year after forming and drawing an audience audience of 250 people. Its first publication, called “Just the Basics,” was written and released in English, Punjabi, Tamil and Hindi.

“It specifically talks to the culture in the very sensitive manner in terms of diet and fitness because it’s not ‘one size fits all,’ ” Swaminathan said. “We might say this is what we recommend to the general population because South Asian cuisine is very diverse from north to south and east to west, so we really need to speak to that language; there was a strong need.”

The South Asian Chapter was started as a part of the Canadian Diabetes Association and has been running for 60 years, with its mission “to work with people affected by diabetes while working to find a cure,” according to Kerry Bruder, Regional Director for Ontario’s Canadian Diabetes Association.

The Canadian Diabetes Association and has been running for 60 years, with its mission “to work with people affected by diabetes while working to find a cure,” according to Kerry Bruder, regional director for Ontario’s Canadian Diabetes Association.

The Association raises around $7.5 million per year for diabetes research. With expos, such as this one, its purpose is to have medical professionals, dieticians and simply those living with diabetes to share their input.

“We realize that people really need to have an understanding of how to manage their diabetes, because the real issue with diabetes is the complications, such as diabetes, stroke, kidney failure, people go blind, lose their limbs,” Bruder said. “The better the control people have over their diabetes, the less likely the complications will take place. We know people with diabetes have the ability to live healthy lives and that’s our goal at the end of the day.”