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Community diabetes study involves 15,000 Maori

Thursday 18 December 2003

Community diabetes study involves 15,000 Maori

A new government funded strategy to prevent diabetes will also tackle obesity and heart disease, particularly amongst Maori.

Announced today, the Community-based Diabetes Intervention study will target 15,000 Waikato Maori with a high risk of developing Type-2 diabetes. Maori and Pacific peoples are three times more likely to develop Type-2 diabetes than Europeans.

If the project is effective, it may be implemented in other communities around New Zealand.

The project is jointly funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) and the Ministry of Health, and includes substantial support from the Waikato and Lakes District Health Boards. The value of the three-year study is $4.26 million.

The study involves communities initiating diabetes intervention and partnering with academics to conduct research. The project will deliver ‘healthy eating healthy action’ messages to high-risk individuals.

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and early death. The disease causes up to 1200 deaths a year in New Zealand.

Health Minister Annette King says diabetes is a condition that is increasing globally.
Indications are the prevalence of diabetes will increase significantly in the next 10 years.

"Type-2 diabetes is a largely preventable disease for which obesity and lack of physical activity are major risk factors," says Ms King.

"The focus on Maori and Pacific people reinforces the Government's commitment to reducing inequalities and achieving better health status for all New Zealanders."

The high degree of co-morbidity between diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease means the intervention strategies will focus on reducing known risk factors for all three conditions. Participants in the project will receive combined community development and personal coaching, contributing to dietary change and increased physical activity.

Professor David Simmons of the University of Auckland Waikato Clinical School is directing the research. British-born and educated, Professor Simmons is a highly regarded internal medicine and diabetes specialist, who has undertaken diabetes awareness campaigns in South Auckland and Australia.

Professor Simmons says the research team is excited about the potential to prevent the harm that diabetes causes across communities.

“We know that increasing activity and improving diet to prevent diabetes is a complex and difficult task, “ he says, “But we believe that our partnership between the community and health and education organisations is well positioned to provide lifestyle changes for other New Zealand communities. “

HRC Chief Executive Bruce Scoggins says the partnership is an excellent example of how health research provider collaborations are contributing to primary disease prevention.

“One of the strengths of the research is the formation of strategic partnerships between the HRC, the Ministry of Health and the DHBs,” says Dr Scoggins.

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