Here is a surprising number. Data collected in 2021 indicated that 1 in 3 Canadians has diabetes or is considered to be “pre-diabetic.” For employers, this is a sobering number because it means that roughly 30% of their workforce is in one of these two categories. Unfortunately, the major contributing factors for the growing incidence of diabetes are obesity, age, and lack of exercise. Approximately 60% of Canadians are overweight and over half are sedentary. Through the pandemic, this inactive lifestyle has been exacerbated by more people working from home.
A Growing Threat
Our aging population, obesity and sedentary lifestyles have contributed to the rise of diabetes, not just in adults but there has also been a rise of Type 2 diabetes in children as well. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, children who were normally active on sports teams year-round had those activities cancelled, which lowered their physical activity, as did school closures.
Diabetes threatens the overall health of patients with possible indirect health events such as strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failures. Another sobering potential consequence of diabetes is that in Canada, 70% of all non-traumatic amputations are related to the disease.
What Employers Can Do
Employers can provide awareness and information about diabetes and the risk factors associated with it to employees in a variety of ways. Lunch & learns, employee newsletters, posters, and social media can be used to raise awareness. Employers can also inform employees of resources such as the Government of Canada’s free online diabetes assessment tool to help employees determine their risk factors for the disease. Employees can be encouraged to take proactive steps to avoid diabetes by using their health savings accounts to make changes to their diet and exercise.
Virtual pharmacy services are now widely available and can be incorporated into benefits plans so that employees can get personalized support to reduce members’ out-of-pocket costs and employers’ overall drug costs as well. Diabetics are often on several medications at once, not just insulin, and having access to a pharmacist can help then manage or avoid side effects of their medications.
Employees have been dealing with heightened levels of stress throughout the pandemic and this can exacerbate problems for diabetics. Stress increases blood glucose, and can also lead to poor eating habits, increased alcohol consumption and low quality sleep, which can make employees have greater challenges with their diabetes. One important way employers can help employees with stress and mental health is to offer a member-centric Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) to help individuals access professional therapists and dietitians who can encourage lifestyle changes and mental wellness through those changes.
Get Managers on Board
Company managers can be trained to understand the realities of living with diabetes so that they can recognize how to offer their team members the flexibility and support they require while on the job. Managers should also be fully informed on the benefits that diabetic team members could be accessing so they can encourage them to take advantage of all that is available to them. All employees need to be understood and supported when they are endeavouring to manage a health issue while providing their best work efforts for the company.
Health Risk Services is excited to announce that through a Preferred Partnership with Crosslinks, we will be providing quarterly Employer Summits. These Summits will provide discussions of timely topics to assist Employers in the support of the Health and Wellness of their employees. We are holding our first Employer Summit on April 27, 2022, from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM MST. Please register for this event to learn about how diabetes affects employees and the workplace and will provide insights into detecting and managing this often hidden disease.