The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences just published a report titled Regional Measures of Diabetes Burden in Ontario (title link), which ended up on the front page of The Toronto Star’s GTA section.
The report shows shows the correlation between Diabetes and demographic location, which is thus related to the ethnic populations in that region (this is also quite thoroughly discussed in the Toronto Star article).
First, looking at the Ontario-wide breakdown we see increased Diabetes throughout Northern Ontario, which speaks to the unfortunate difficulties that our native population is having with their health. Note that Diabetes (type 2, which accounts for 95% of cases) is strongly correlated with obesity and poor lifestyle habits.
Then, if we look at the Toronto and GTA breakdown (sections 7 & 8 respectively), we see vast differences in diabetes incidences by ‘region’. It is well known that although Toronto is extremely diverse as a whole, there are strong ethnic groupings by region, particularly in the GTA. High diabetes ratings can often be related to the ethnic background of the population within that region. Medically, some ethnicities are more ‘gentically pre-disposed’ to being affected by Diabetes, based on the body’s tendency to store fat, etc. Personally, I think the large cultral differences associated with the ethnic breakdowns in regions are much more interesting. Culture affects lifestyle, which affects habits and choices, which affects health, which affects Diabetes.
As someone interested in applying technology to solve problems like this (chronic disease pandemics), these maps are a good reminder of the complexity of large-scale consumer health solutions. Cultural and genetic differences in people can completely invalidate solutions that work for the people right next door. Solutions must be able to adapt to these factors that fundamentally affect how and why people live, and provide the appropriate tools that accommodate these pre-dispositions. Only when this happens will a solution be able to deliver effective health awareness and habit change on a scale large enough to help slow the chronic disease pandemic we are currently seeing.