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Social Science Disease & Health Issues

Diagnosing the Legacy

The Discovery, Research, and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes in Indigenous Youth

by (author) Larry Krotz

foreword by Frances Desjarlais

afterword by Heather Dean, Jonathan McGavock, Michael Moffatt & Elizabeth Sellers

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2018
Disease & Health Issues, Diabetes, History
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price
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    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
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In the late 1980s, pediatric endocrinologists at the Children’s Hospital in Winnipeg began to notice a new cohort appearing in their clinics for young people with diabetes.

Indigenous youngsters from two First Nations in northern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario were showing up not with type 1 (or insulin-dependent diabetes), but with what looked like type 2 diabetes, until then a condition that was restricted to people much older. Investigation led the doctors to learn that something similar had become a medical issue among young people of the Pima Indian Nation in Arizona though, to their knowledge, nobody else.

But these youth were just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next few decades more children would confront what was turning into not only a medical but also a social and community challenge.

"Diagnosing the Legacy" is the story of communities, researchers, and doctors who faced—and continue to face—something never seen before: type 2 diabetes in younger and younger people. Through dozens of interviews, Krotz shows the impact of the disease on the lives of individuals and families as well as the challenges caregivers faced diagnosing and then responding to the complex and perplexing disease, especially in communities far removed from the medical personnel a facilities available in the city.

About the authors

Larry Krotz is a writer and documentary filmmaker who has worked with the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Literary Review of Canada, the National Film Board of Canada, and PBS. He is the author of ten works of non-fiction, a novel, and a picture book. His latest book is a history of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine called No Ordinary School of Medicine. Krotz currently lives in Toronto, ON.

Larry Krotz's profile page

Frances Desjarlais is a registered nurse from the Swan Lake First Nation who has worked on diabetes initiatives in First Nations communities for most of her career.

Frances Desjarlais' profile page

Heather Dean's profile page

Jonathan McGavock's profile page

Michael Moffatt's profile page

Elizabeth Sellers' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Diagnosing the Legacy is at once detective story, indictment, and scientific investigation. It problematizes existing approaches to type 2 diabetes among the First Nations of Canada. Krotz, a writer and filmmaker, does an outstanding service in using the lens of type 2 diabetes mellitus—which is increasingly diagnosed in young people, a population not previously thought to be at risk for this condition—to critically examine the political, social, economic, and biological features of this chronic disease among the people of the First Nations. Importantly, the book emphasizes the biological aspects of genetic risk together with the origins of health and disease, arguing that genetic risk—in conjunction with a fetus’s intrauterine environment—both impact that individual’s metabolism. This biopsychosocial perspective moves beyond genetic determinism to consider inequities in diabetes prevalence and treatment from an individual and community standpoint. Krotz stresses the importance of strengthening resilience among First Nations, shifting the locus from individual risk and responsibility to structural factors and solutions. Moreover, the book was written in cooperation with, and supported by, First Nations communities, who are partnering with academics to develop their own solutions to the growing spread of type 2 diabetes among their youth.”


“An engaging narrative and insights into the limits of biomedicine and public health when dealing with the type 2 diabetes, as our understanding of the disease and the public health crisis evolved.”

American Review of Canadian Studies

“As a whole, academically trained researchers and practitioners are making very little difference to the lives of Indigenous children with type 2 diabetes. We need to advocate, not for longer-acting or more concentrated insulins, or a better pill, but for better relationships, such as those between the Manitoba team and these remote communities, as described in the compelling stories of Larry Krotz’ book.”

The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology

Other titles by Larry Krotz