Keenan Research Centre - Research Programs

Centre for Research on Inner City Health - Toronto Diabetes Atlas

Combining data from over 30 sources to generate more than 100 maps of the City of Toronto, the CRICH/ICES “Toronto Diabetes Atlas” (2007) identified significant neighbourhood disparities in diabetes prevalence. Areas with high rates of diabetes tended to be found outside of Toronto's downtown core, in suburban areas, where there is reduced access to healthy resources such as fruit and vegetable stores and where "activity friendliness" is lower (e.g. fewer amenities within walking distance, poorer access to public transit, greater car dependency).  The study provides a sound basis for key health recommendations such as introducing bike lanes, additional bus routes, and new zoning laws to encourage access to healthy food choices and activities.

Access Study Resources:

  • Full report
  • Fact Sheet (pdf)
  • Presentations
    • "Diabetes, Obesity and the Built Environment," presentation given by Dr. Rick Glazier (CRICH) to the Canadian Obesity Network - Students and New Professionals University of Toronto Chapter, Toronto Watch Now
  • Media Coverage Watch Now

Key Findings:

  1. Neighbourhoods with the highest rates of diabetes tended to be outside the downtown area. The general characteristics of high diabetes, ‘high risk’, neighbourhoods were:
    • Lower average household incomes and higher concentrations of visible minority residents and immigrants
    • Lower levels of walking and cycling
    • Poor access or longer distances to get to healthy resources such as stores selling fresh fruits & vegetables and diabetes education programs
    • Fewer parks and recreation centres
  2. People living in “activity-friendly” neighbourhoods reported walking and bicycling more often and were less dependent on cars for travel. “Activity-friendly” neighbourhoods also had lower diabetes rates.
  3. Some ‘high risk’ areas of the city with lower income levels and higher proportions of visible minority residents had lower than expected rates of diabetes. In these neighbourhoods, higher activity friendliness and better access to healthy resources may protect residents from developing diabetes.
  4. Higher income neighbourhoods had low rates of diabetes, even in parts of Toronto that scored low on activity-friendliness or had poor access to healthy resources. A higher income may give people more options for exercise and healthy eating and make them less dependent on their immediate environment (eg. athletic club memberships and the ability to drive to supermarkets).

Contacts:
Richard H. Glazier, MD MPH CCFP FCFP                        
Core Scientist, Centre for Research on Inner City Health
Centre for Research on Inner City Health
The Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
St. Michael's Hospital
rick.glazier@ices.on.ca

Gillian Booth, MD MSc FRCPC
Associate Scientist, Centre for Research on Inner City Health
The Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
St. Michael’s Hospital
boothg@smh.ca