The diabetes rates in the suburban GTA region of Peel are among the highest in Ontario due to ethnic background of its residents and lack of walkability, researchers at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital say. 

The region, which is comprised of Caledon, Brampton and Mississauga, is “characterized by wide streets and high-traffic intersections – neither of which are conducive to walking,” the researchers found. 

Using data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and Statistics Canada, Peel Public Health also found that the region has a large population of residents from South Asia and the Caribbean, who are more genetically susceptible to developing diabetes than people of European descent.

“We found that diabetes rates were highest in neighbourhoods that discourage walking and in neighbourhoods where more of the residents come from world regions that have high levels of diabetes,” Dr. Gillian Booth, an endocrinologist and researcher St. Michael’s Hospital, said in a statement on Monday.

One in 10 adults in Peel has diabetes and researchers predict that by 2025, one in six will have the disease.

Overall, the number of people in Ontario living with diabetes has been increasing over the years, with 1.2 million people diagnosed with the chronic disease in 2010.

To determine where diabetes is most common, Peel Public Health partnered with researchers at St. Michael’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health and developed an “atlas” of region, mapping rates of the disease across the community.

“Peel certainly lights up on a map of Ontario diabetes rates,” said Dr. Rick Glazier, researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital. “When we looked at the region in more detail, we found that some neighbourhoods, particularly those in Brampton, had noticeably higher rates.”

The 233-page diabetes atlas contains maps and data comparing the rates of diabetes against certain risk factors including:

  • Obesity
  • Income level
  • Ethnic background
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet

Peel Public Health and the region’s planning department are now collaborating to “influence built environment policies and processes.”

“The diabetes atlas is a useful reference to help us grow in a way that is healthy, economically viable and sustainable,” said Arvin Prasad, director of integrated planning at the Region of Peel.