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Diabetes prevalence and complication rates: in individual First Nations communities in the Sioux Lookout region of Ontario


Objective — To test the feasibility of reporting diabetes indicators at a regional and community level in order to provide feedback to local leaders on health system performance.

Design — Analysis of administrative data from hospital discharges and physician billings.

Setting — Sioux Lookout region of Ontario.

Participants — Residents from 30 remote communities served by the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority.

Main Outcome Measures — Incidence and prevalence of diabetes and incidence of diabetes complications, including heart attack, stroke, retinopathy, amputations, end-stage kidney disease, diabetes-related hospitalizations, and death.

Results — Data were available for 18 542 residents from the 30 remote communities. Residents were almost entirely of First Nations descent. The prevalence of diabetes was 12.9%, the annual incidence was 1.0%, and the annual rate of complications was 5.4% in 2015-2016. Prevalence increased slightly over time. We had sufficient data to report prevalence in 25 of 30 communities (average population 738; range 234 to 2626). We reported statistically significant differences in prevalence by community; 8 were above average and 2 were below average. For diabetes complications, data were pooled over 5 years, and while community-level results could be reported, the variance was too high to allow detection of significant differences. Using 2-tailed t tests for difference of proportions, we determined that grouping communities into subregions of approximately 2000 persons would permit the detection of differences of 30% from the average 5-year complication rate.

Conclusion — This study demonstrates the possibility of reporting diabetes prevalence by individual First Nations reserve communities. Complication rates can be reported by individual community, but estimates are more useful for comparison if the smallest communities are grouped together. Such studies could be replicated across Canada to promote local use of these data for resource planning and monitoring long-term progress of diabetes programs and services.



Chan BTB, Sodhi SK, Mecredy GC, Farrell T, Gordon J. Can Fam Physician. 2021; 67(8):601-7. Epub 2021 Aug 1.

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