May 3, 2014 1:51 am

Out of the limelight, Dix continues diabetes advocacy

On his first full day with the title “former NDP leader”, Adrian Dix was talking about muffins.

“They tend to be highly sweet and high in calories, but in our mind’s eyes, they’re seen as nutritious,” he says in an East Van coffee shop.

“You can get sugar-free stuff, more places are catering to that, but you should generally avoid the muffins.”

“And the banana loaf.”

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A day after stepping down as leader when John Horgan was acclaimed as his replacement, Dix was in his Vancouver-Kingsway constituency, chatting with residents and discussing issues close to his heart.

Today, it was diabetes treatment and prevention. Diagnosed with type 1 in 1992, Dix has injected himself four times daily for over 20 years. While he’s never kept it a secret, he was quite candid about it during last year’s provincial election.

“I had this unusual life as leader, where you’re travelling everywhere, and you have to incorporate into that trying to eat reasonably well, injecting four times a day, and making sure you’re fine. And that can be done,” he says.

“My initial reaction was not to [talk about it], to set it aside, but over time I think it became better for me and others to talk about it, and the challenges that you can overcome, and achieve what you want to in life.”

Having coffee with Dix is Bill Bell, a former North Vancouver councillor. It was during the campaign that Bell read an article about Dix’s condition. It turned out Bell had been experiencing many of the same symptoms.

“I just thought I was getting really old really fast. I was tired, peeing more, losing my balance. I didn’t think anything about diabetes,” he admitted.

But the article inspired him to get tested, and a year after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, Bell feels confident about his long-term health.

“I do have some long-standing problems, but now it’s certainly under control, with medication and exercise and diet. It’s funny finding your health through politics, but I found my health through Adrian.”

For Dix, who was health critic before becoming leader in 2011, it’s an example of diabetes prevention and treatment being connected to health of all British Columbians.

“The interesting thing of diabetes is the best way to deal is the way everyone should be living anyway. Less sugary drinks, eating smaller and more consistent meals, eating well, sleeping well, exercising, taking care of one another,” he says.

“300,000 British Columbians are diagnosed now, that’s a lot. People need to know about this. Part of it is education, some of it is addressing issues of poverty, because it’s a major cause especially in type 2 diabetes, and a major impact on outcome for people in type 1 diabetes. In our health care system, here’s a number of things we can do at the primary care level…the help doesn’t require need a doctor, but you need people in the community who can provide help at a lower cost.”

He points to the Liberal government’s recent decision to extend insulin coverage from 18 to 25, a policy he campaigned on, as an example of concrete change he’s been to affect.

Dix may no longer be NDP leader. But his passion for the power of politics continues to be strong.

“People are very negative about politics. These are wonderful positions. These are really privileged positions,” he says. “It gives you the chance to speak to people on a larger scale and that has an impact….It’s an extraordinarily positive thing.”

“People are negative, saying ‘oh, you lost, your reputation takes a hit.’ I can’t tell you how much fun it is, how enjoyable it is.”

“I’m going to keep on keeping on.”

- With files from Elaine Yong

© Shaw Media, 2014

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