Prevalence, risk factors and impact of diabetes among the western Canadian Metis

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Bruce, Sharon Gail
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Although the prevalence of diabetes among Aboriginal North American Indian populations has been described as "epidemic", the epidemiology of the disease among the Metis has not yet been investigated. The source of data for this research was the Aboriginal Peoples Survey (APS). Analysis was conducted on the self-identified Metis populations of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Comparison groups included APS self-identified North American Indians of the same three provinces and the general Canadian population. Univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistical analyses were performed to describe the data set and test relationships among variables. Multiple logistic regression was performed to test etiological hypotheses regarding the determinants of diabetes and other chronic health conditions. The crude diabetes prevalence among the Metis (6.1%) is slightly less than that reported by North American Indians (7.3%) and twice the general Canadian rate (3.0%). The pattern of diabetes among the Metis of westernCanada is similar to that established among other North American Aboriginal populations. Risk factors include age, sex, obesity, level of physical activity, and socioeconomic indicators. The negative impact of diabetes upon the lives of those afflicted was demonstrated in this research. Metis participants with diabetes were more likely than those without diabetes: (1) to report their health status as poor; (2) to report activity limitations, difficulties with mobility and the need for assistance in activities of daily living; and (3) to report significantly higher prevalence of hypertension, heart problems and sight impairment. The results of this research represent the first detailed analysis of diabetes among the Metis of western Canada. The APS data set has been useful in establishing diabetes as a significant problem among the Metis and in providing evidence of the patterning of diabetes in the population. However, the APS was subject to limitations which impacted on the quality of the derived results. Primary research within Metis communities must be conducted to verify the general trends demonstrated through this research and to establish an accurate picture of the epidemiology of diabetes among the Metis.