Halton Diabetes Program Targets South Asian Community

By: Laura Steiner

Culturally sensitive diabetes education. That’s the goal of a newly-launched program by Halton Healthcare, aimed at the South-Asian community. In the Halton-Peel area 10 out of every 100 adults are living with diabetes.   South Asians are especially prone to developing the disease because of genetics, diet, and lifestyle. In Milton they make up approximately 14% of the population according to the 2011 census.

The program was re-launched earlier this year by Nurse-Educator Rafat Saleemi, and Dietician Yumna Khan. Saleemi has been a nurse for 16 years and has a passion for diabetes education. The area’s increase in South-Asian population inspires her. “I really found it motivated me,” she explained in an interview. Yumna Khan finds hers in helping people. “My biggest inspiration is that I can make a difference in people’s lives.”

One of the ways Khan feels she can make a difference is by teaching them about changes to their diet. “Explain the South Asian diet is high in sugars, fats, and carbohydrates,” she said. One way of changing that is the plate method for portion control. It’s where you take an 8 inch dinner plate and divide it into thirds. One-third vegetables, one-quarter protein, and one-quarter starch. “Food is a very powerful tool,” Khan explained.

They have to combat cultural myths in how diabetes is treated. One person thought if they drank a mixture of red pepper, and bitter melon juice daily it would control their blood sugars. Another is cinnamon powder; studies have been inconclusive on this one. “It’s very positive, and encouraging to see the positive change in the South-Asian community,” Saleemi emphasized.

Diabetes Educations Yumna Khan, and Rafat Saleemi

Saleemi, and Khan are both certified diabetes educators. An initial appointment with one of them is around an hour long. They go through a 4-page form asking questions about everything from physical activity level to financial stability. “We go through their history: medication, allergies, see what kind of eating pattern is established,” Saleemi explained. There could also be stressors associated with work, and life. “Moving here, not paying attention,” described Khan. “Care is maintained through a collaborative, information-based approach,” added Saleemi. They make patients aware of what effects their lifestyles have on their bodies, and help them make adjustments.

The program aims to remove all barriers including language, and geography. “We see patients within the community,” Saleemi said. They are completely mobile, and able to take their clinic into mosques, temples, gurdwaras, churches, and they will pay for parking. Saleemi summed up the program: “We offer culturally sensitive, holistic, individualized care.” The plan is to eventually expand to North Oakville.

The program’s hours at Milton Hospital are: 8:30am-4:30pm on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Some days the hours go later from: 12pm-8pm. Services are offered in: English, Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi. For more information on the Milton programs call: 905-878-2383 ext. 7410. This is a free clinic that functions on either a doctor’s referral or a self-referral where patients call the clinic themselves.


  • 10 out of every 100 adults in Halton-Peel live with diabetes
  • South-Asians are more susceptible because of diet, genetics, and stressors including moving to Canada
  • The Halton Diabetes program offers services in English, Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi
  • Patients must either be referred by a doctor, or a self-referral. Services are offered for free.
  • The Milton hours for the Halton Diabetes program are Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 8:30am to 4:30 pm, and include some late evenings from 12pm-8pm.
  • Call the Milton office at: 905-878-2383 ext. 7410 or Oakville at: 905-338-4437. Their website is: www.haltonhealthcare.com