“We Need More Peer Support Groups for T2Ds in Canada” 


Over the years, the type 2 diabetes (T2D) online community has been growing, however, there are still so many who need to find peer support as they navigate their diagnosis. While the type 1 diabetes community has a peer support network in Canada, some with type 2 diabetes would like to see the same for them. 

Toronto-based Melissa Houston is a person who’s been living with type 2 diabetes for nearly a decade and was previously featured on Beyond Type 2 where she shared how her diagnosis was a wake-up call to live her healthiest life. 

After being active in the diabetes online community for several years to share positive messages about living with type 2 diabetes to help others, Melissa’s chatting with Beyond Type 2 again to discuss why peer support needs to go beyond the newly diagnosed basics and what it would take to build a community for people with type 2 diabetes in Canada. Melissa also shares insights about what other resources people with T2D should know after being diagnosed—particularly with health insurance. 

On the state of peer support when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Melissa doesn’t recall there being a major focus on connecting people with T2D together—especially those who were diagnosed in their 20s or 30s. 

“A lot of the people I met by chance—meaning we were connected by other hobbies or interests, and then I found out they had type 2 diabetes.”

For her, the primary resource to learn anything about type 2 diabetes outside of her doctor was Diabetes Canada. It’s been her primary go-to when looking for Canadian-specific T2D resources. But other than that? Nothing has stood out to her other than the Beyond Type 2 community. 

Still, Melissa has given some serious thought to starting a more formal community. Around the time of her diagnosis, she wanted to get pregnant, so she was immediately seen by a specialist to learn how she could manage her glucose levels along with her pregnancy. But still, she knows that’s not the experience of many living with T2D. If there’s one group of people that she’d like to a make difference for, it’s the elderly with T2D. 

“We need more peer groups here for the T2D community in Canada,” says Melissa. “I’d love to go to an in-person meetup. If there’s a meetup where I can learn something new, but still have a good time, that’s something people would be interested in. I think a lot about elderly individuals who only deal with physicians and pharmacists but have no one else to talk to about their experiences. We’re told a lot about movement, and getting things like your eyes checked, but we need to make sure this information is given to people who aren’t online. Meetups would be a great way for people to get that information and make connections.” 

In addition to in-person meetups, Melissa believes a mentorship program could help those who are newly diagnosed with T2D. Her ideal peer support program would have newly diagnosed individuals pair with those who have extensive experience with diabetes. 

“I’ve had moments where I’ve had friends say something and I’ve suggested they ask their doctor about certain tests or tell them other questions they should ask their doctors like, ‘Why am I taking this medication?’” says Melissa. “I feel like if you’ve had diabetes for a while and can help someone else, you should.” 

Even though she thinks peer support could make a significant difference in the lives of many people with T2D, Melissa thinks healthcare providers could go beyond just providing the basics of diabetes management. They should delve into newer medications like GLP-1s and GIP/GLP-1s, and technology that’s available. 

“My pharmacist calls me to ensure I know how to monitor my glucose levels, which is great for someone who’s new to diabetes,” says Melissa. “But as someone who’s been living with diabetes for so long, I need something a bit deeper like information on what new treatments are out there.” 

When it comes to the information she thinks would be helpful to any person with type 2 diabetes living in Canada, it’s understanding your insurance coverage. Your coverage determines which tools and medications you have access to, but sometimes it can be challenging to know what’s exactly covered—whether it’s private or universal coverage. 

“When I started taking medication, such as insulin during my pregnancy, I was fortunate to have coverage through my employer,” recalls Melissa. “But whatever my insurance doesn’t cover, is covered by my husband’s insurance—so I’d encourage anyone with type 2 diabetes who’s married to see what options are available under your spouse’s insurance.”

If you have questions about what’s covered under your plan, you can start by asking your doctor or your doctor may proactively start the conversation around coverage before prescribing you a new medication or a device. 

“If something isn’t covered under my work benefits, I’d be happy to pay for full coverage,” says Melissa, who uses a GLP-1. “But, my doctor will sometimes ask me about my benefits because she doesn’t want to recommend something if I can’t manage it financially. Some of these newer medications are very expensive—even with private insurance—but especially with universal where I’d likely have to pay out of pocket.” 

Depending on your income and province, you may be eligible for financial assistance programs to help you get the resources you need to thrive with T2D. 

In the meantime, join Melissa and the growing type 2 diabetes community in Canada by reading the other resources and community stories on Beyond Type 2 Canada.

Written By T'ara Smith, MS, Nutrition Education, Posted , Updated 09/21/23

T’ara was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in July 2017 at the age of 25. Since her diagnosis, she focused her academic studies and career on diabetes awareness and living a full life with it. She’s excited to have joined the Beyond Type 1 team to continue her work. Two years later, T'ara discovered she'd been misdiagnosed with type 2 and actually has latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). Outside the office, T’ara enjoys going to the movies, visiting parks with her dog, listening to BTS and cooking awesome healthy meals. T’ara holds an MS in Nutrition Education from American University.