Objectives: To describe the prevalence of diabetes mellitus in the on-reserve Status Indian population of British Columbia based on a survey conducted in 1997 and to compare these rates with previous surveys carried out in 1987, 1992 and 1995.
Study design: Survey questionnaires were distributed to health centres, health stations and nursing stations providing health services to the 198 First Nations reserves in British Columbia.
Results: Data were received from 82 of 198 First Nations communities (41%) representing 24,407 (45%) of the on-reserve population of the province (53,893). A total of 636 cases of diabetes were identified. Seventy-seven percent of cases were age 35 plus. The overall prevalence in 1997 was 2.6% for all ages combined, more than doubled from 1.2% in 1987. First Nation's men and women 35 and older when compared to the general population by indirect age-standardization experienced a higher prevalence ratio-males 1.27, 95% CI 1.22, 1.40 and females 2.53, 95% CI: 2.77, 2.58. Among those with diabetes for > 20 years, 62.5% used insulin compared to 13% who had the disease < five years (622/636 reporting). Diabetic complications were reported in 48% of individuals. Diagnosed gestational diabetes was 28/1000 live births.
Conclusions: General preventive initiatives must continue including Screening, nutrition and fitness education, and improved diabetic management directed at reduction in complications.