By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: More than nine million Canadians are living with diabetes or pre diabetes. This is almost one quarter of Canada’s total population of 35 million. In other words, one out of four Canadians either has diabetes or is pre disposed to it. It has been reported that nearly ten percent of these people have been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes whereas the remaining ninety percent have Type 2 diabetes. These figures are quite alarming. Members of the South Asian community are reported to be more susceptible to this disease than others. In this context, the University of Victoria must be commended for engaging the South Asian community in the diabetes self-management program.
This initiative was headed by Dr.Patrick McGowan, Professor, School of Public Health and Social Policy, University of Victoria.
Under McGowan’s leadership, Jay Bains and other members of his team have done an excellent job in creating more awareness about diabetes in our community. On Sunday, September 29, Dr. McGowan and his team shared with the community results of the two- year Punjabi Diabetes Self-Management pilot project at Surrey’s Grand Taj Banquet Hall. This project was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
With assistance from Jay Bains and team, McGowan went over the findings of this project and shared future plans for self-management programs in the South Asian community.
It is very encouraging to note that this pilot project was conducted in Punjabi, the third most spoken language in Canada, after English and French. Also, the way the organizers of this project reached out to both male and female participants in the South Asian community, not only in Metro Vancouver but also from the interior, north and Vancouver Island is commendable.
The Volunteer Leaders played a crucial role in this process. Thus, it was a delight to hear these leaders share their own experiences as part of this pilot project. All of the participants emphasized the need for self-management. However, the physicians also play a key role in this. Prominent physicians like Dr. Gulzar Cheema and Dr. Pargat Singh Bhurji have been doing an excellent job through the media in educating the South Asian community not only about diabetes self-management but also about other aspects of leading a healthy and enjoyable life.
Dr. Cheema and Dr. Bhurji were joined by Dr. Paramjit Singh Sohal in urging the audience and through them the community that as individuals we need to take charge of our health. The physicians are there to help but ultimately the responsibility to stay healthy is up to each one of us. The two key ingredients they stressed in this regard were regular exercise and proper diet. However, other lifestyle changes such as a positive attitude, relaxation and regular checkups also go a long way in this regard.
PICS C.E.O. and well respected community leader Charan Pal Gill, fitness role model Andy Admi, and myself also shared thoughts with a very distinguished audience. Mrs. Maan Kaur, the oldest South Asian female runner, motivated the audience with her inspiring message. Surrey- North Delta M.P. Jinny Sims and former MLA Patty Sihota also gave their perspective on healthy choices.
The audience consisted of very prominent members of the community, members of the Greyhound athletic group and the media. The attendees were treated to a very lively entertainment by a talented ladies’group.Young artist Rajdeep Singh Sekhon capped it all by singing a melodious song. In conclusion, Dr. Ken Kunz, a cancer specialist, gave a brief yet very powerful presentation about the causes and prevention of cancer. Dr.Patrick McGowan, Jay Bains and their team must be congratulated for undertaking this pilot project.
Hopefully, they will continue to work with the South Asian community on such health related initiatives.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired school psychologist and community leader based in Richmond, British Columbia)