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Diabetes & Ozempic

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified diabetes as one of the greatest public health challenges of this century. It is a serious health concern among people living in Canada and especially for Indigenous Communities. In fact, statistics shows that Indigenous populations have a higher risk of developing diabetes than non-indigenous communities. Research also shows that self-reported diabetes rates among First Nations adults living off reserve and Metis adults are 1.9 and 1.5 times higher than that of non-indigenous adults, respectively.

There are multiple reasons why diabetes rates are higher within Indigenous communities. Indigenous people have suffered inequities as a result of colonial policies and practices including systematic racism, intergenerational traumas, disruption of cultural identity and self-determination, and limited access to resources. These factors have severely undermined indigenous values, cultures, and spiritual practicing, creating long-lasting physical, mental emotional, and social harm for these communities.

Continue to read the rest of our newsletter to learn more about the causes, types, and prevention methods of diabetes.

Understanding Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic health condition characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar. When healthy, our bodies break down most of the food we eat into sugar (glucose) and release it into the bloodstream. When blood sugar rises, it signals the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts as the key to taking blood sugar into the body’s cells to use it as energy. With diabetes, the body cannot produce or use enough insulin. When you don’t have enough insulin or your cells become unresponsive to insulin, excess blood sugar remains in your bloodstream. Over time, diabetes causes serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

There are different types of diabetes that people are diagnosed with. Let us discuss them in detail below:

Type 1 Diabetes

This type is characterized by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. With type 1 diabetes, you are required to have daily insulin injections. It usually begins in childhood. Neither the cause nor the means to reduce the risk of acquisition are known yet.

Type 2 Diabetes

This type occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or does not effectively use the insulin produced by the body. This type is caused by several factors such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and smoking. Genetics and obesity are also important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Daily insulin injections may be required.

Gestational Diabetes

This type of diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy. This type often goes away after delivery, however, there is a high risk that people with gestational diabetes and their babies may develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Aside from these types, researchers also include prediabetes. Pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. This condition is associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Medication: Statistics & Drugs

Statistics indicate that the diabetes treatments and supplies category is dominating all other therapeutic classes for health benefits plans and experiencing strong growth year over year. In 2022, diabetes treatments and supplies totaled up to 15% of the total amount covered on drugs. This percentage rose to 31.7% for non-insured health benefits (NIHB) and first nations health benefits (FNHB) plans. Among the top treatments for diabetes for the NIHB and FNHB plans is Ozempic.

Research shows that in 2022, Ozempic accounted for almost 30% of the total amount covered for diabetic drugs, and the utilization rates have increased by 70% from 2021 to 2022 across different age ranges from 25 – 65 and older.

So, what is Ozempic, and how does it work?

Ozempic is one of the most commonly used diabetes control drugs of our time. Ozempic (generic term: semaglutide) binds to glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and stimulates insulin release from the pancreas when needed, which helps lower blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C. Ozempic also reduces the amount of sugar your liver produces. It slows down food leaving your stomach and prevents blood sugar spikes in your body. What makes Ozempic a unique drug is that it does not inject insulin into the body. Instead, it helps your body release its own insulin.

Ozempic is used only once a week and the amount injected varies, depending on individual health conditions.

This drug is a popular treatment for type 2 diabetes, and the BC government announced that it will expand its production of Ozempic to meet demand and ensure continued availability of the drug to patients who need it.

Is Ozempic covered for First Nations Health Authority clients?

Ozempic is a covered diabetes drug if you are FNHA client, but it is subject to criteria and requires the prescriber to submit a Special Authority request.

Click here to read more about the Special Authority request.

Learn more about the covered diabetes drugs, insulins, and supplies for FNHA clients here.

Can Ozempic be covered by private insurance?

Patients with private drug plans may be eligible for coverage of Ozempic – depending on the plan and insurance provider. Sometimes the coverage options may vary; it could be partial prescription drug coverage, or it could be having a maximum amount the company will cover. Talk to your Plan Administrators about the details of your benefits plan coverage.

Some people use Ozempic for weight loss too; is it safe?

Although Ozempic was not approved for weight reduction, some people use it as a weight loss tool. Some people are experiencing weight loss when taking Ozempic if combined with proper dieting and exercise. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Health is asking respective colleges to ensure the physicians prescribing and pharmacies dispensing Ozempic are compliant with the procedure-approved indication.

Here are some of the dangerous side effects of Ozempic: pancreas inflation, changes in vision, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), kidney problems (kidney failure), serious allergic reactions, and gallbladder problems.

Talk to your doctor about how Ozempic may affect your health and monitor your body for irregular symptoms while on Ozempic.

Diabetes: Prevention Method

Although many studies were and – are still being – conducted to learn more about the causes and means to prevent type 1 diabetes, no prevention method has been identified yet. Nonetheless, scientists are inventing drugs that can potentially delay a diagnose of type 1 diabetes for two years such as Teplizumab. Scientists also encourage early screening to detect Type 1 diabetes early on to manage it at its earliest stages.

For type 2 diabetes, the situation differs. Mitigation and prevention methods are found and if practiced appropriately, they can have a major role in preventing type 2 diabetes. Some of those methods are proper dieting and frequent exercise. Let’s explore these options further in the following sections.


Diet plays an important role when it comes to Type 2 diabetes prevention. Your registered dietitian can guide you through a healthier lifestyle by improving your eating habits. Here are some recommended dietary restrictions:

1. Develop A Healthy Eating Style

When you decide to follow a healthy lifestyle, your food choices have to include vegetables and fruits, whole-grain foods, and plant-based proteins. Canada Food Guide recommends using the following proportions:

  • Make half of your plate vegetables and fruits.
  • Make one-quarter of your plan whole grain foods.
  • Make one-quarter of your plate of protein foods.
2. Prepare Your Meals

Weekly meal planning helps you avoid making decisions at the moment when you are hungry. When you create a meal plan for the week, you are choosing better quality food for your diet (fruits, vegetables, protein) and thus improving your organ function and blood sugar. Meal preparation also helps you reduce the stress that is caused by feeling guilty for eating unhealthy food.

3. Use The Glycemic Index

Blood sugar management is an important factor in managing and preventing diabetes and this is where the glycemic index comes to play. “The glycemic index is a measure of how fast different carbohydrate-containing foods raise our blood sugars after eating them” – Lumino Health.

Using the GI can help you make better choices when it comes to meals and snacks. The GI of foods is ranked as follows:

  • Low GI: 0 – 55
  • Medium GI: 56 -69
  • High GI: 70 – 100

Essentially, the lower the glycemic index, the slower your blood sugar will rise and the steadier your blood sugar will be after you eat that food.

Physical Activity

Another key factor to prevent diabetes is physical activity. Doctors recommend an active routine to ensure your body is protected from illnesses like diabetes. Here are some of our recommendations for a healthier lifestyle:

1. Fit Movement into Your Day

Many of us have stories of starting a new exercise routine and then failing to commit to it a couple of weeks or months after. We need to transform thinking about exercise into actually doing the exercise!

To start, you need to think about what is motivating you to commit to those 30 or 45 minutes of exercise every day. Often time, we lose interest quickly because we don’t have what motivates us to move out from the couch. So as the first step, learn about what motivates you.

The second step: know your barriers. Is it not having enough time? or, is exercising at 6 o’clock in the morning exhausting you? Or is it a financial cost? Once you have identified your barriers, it’s time to address them. Find a closer gym, exercise at home, exercise at a time that works well with your schedule, etc.

And remember, short workouts are better than no workouts at all. You can start with a short period of 5 minutes and then increase gradually. There are some phone applications you can use that can keep you on track, such as the MOVR app.

Most importantly, you need to remember to designate a time for exercise, just like eating, sleeping, or working. Once you prioritize your workout time, there will always be time for it.

2. Stick to your workout routine

Personal trainers understand that motivation can lag; that sometimes life priorities can get in the way of doing your workout. That is the first thing that they want to advise when you want to commit to a workout plan; recognize that everyone experiences motivation lags sometimes.

But how can you work around it and stick to your workout event after some lag?


They advise you to acknowledge your roadblocks and set up an accountability system where someone expects you to show up to their workout session every time. Go with a friend, you will be held accountable!

Experts also advise when trying to commit to a workout plan, lose the critical self-talk when you miss a workout or two. Remember that every activity counts, even a short walk after work!

Being able to manage diabetes successfully is about so much more than tracking blood sugar. It’s about setting a healthy lifestyle and committing to it; being able to make the right food and exercise choices when the time comes. Go for a walk, eat well, avoid blame, learn a relaxation technique, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends.

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