The Toronto Transit Commission has hosted its first diabetes screening campaign, making the onsite screening available to its 12,000 employees in December.

Dr. Alain Sotto, occupational medical consultant at the TTC, said the campaign was introduced after the organization had seen a higher frequency of type 2 diabetes and its related complications among its employees.

“We have a lot of individuals who are somewhat sedentary. They sit and don’t move,” he added. “A lot of employees were presenting already with serious complications that were subsequently diagnosed with pre-diabetes type 2 or diabetes type 2.

Read: How to manage obesity in the workplace

“It’s insurmountable when a bus driver or a subway driver can’t drive anymore because his/her vision has deteriorated due to the effects of diabetes. Not to mention the other serious risks to life … 80% of them develop cardiovascular disease, so heart attacks and strokes were becoming more common.”

The TTC partnered with The Health Team, which conducted the screenings at various worksites around the city. The program measured weight, waist circumference, blood sugar and blood cholesterols via pinprick, A1C (a three-month glucose average), and calculated employees’ cardiovascular risks using the Framingham Risk Score.

Read: How to manage cardiovascular disease

“We can measure five or six parameters and give them a report card saying, you’re at low, moderate, or high risk, or you’re not at risk,” Dr. Sotto said. “We weren’t trying to diagnose them; this was purely screening. With every onsite screening, you need to follow-up with your family physician for confirmatory blood tests and repeat blood pressure measurements, and that’s what they were told.

“These employees are hungry for this information onsite, and it motivates them to take the next step. So, if your blood sugar is elevated on the pinprick test at the workplace, then the next time you see your doctor you want to get a fasting blood sugar, and confirm you don’t have diabetes or you do have diabetes, and get early treatment.

“That’s the whole premise: early treatment, early awareness and mitigation strategies to help reduce the effects of diabetes, and undiagnosed diabetes.”

The TTC communicated the campaign to employees through a number of mediums, filtered down through departments, with emails, videos, bulletins, pay-cheque stuffers and posters, all directing staff to a secure website where they could log-in and register for a screening.

Read: Diabetes costs expected to increase as population ages

Over a 10-day period, more than 1,000 employees spent 15-20 minutes with a registered health-care professional from The Health Team.

“This was a first pass, but it was very successful,” said Dr. Sotto. “We had to add more days because people were requesting for more. Given it’s success, we’ll probably do it again, hopefully on an annual basis.

“We know that if you’re pre-diabetic, 25-30 per cent of those are going to become diabetic within two to three years. So we wanted to target the population that’s most at risk, those who are undiagnosed and perhaps we can turn their tide of being diagnosed with diabetes type 2, if they change their trajectory with simple lifestyle changes; namely, regular aerobic exercise of at least 150 minutes per week and losing five to seven per cent of their body weight.”

Read: How to deal with diabetes in the workplace

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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