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NZers lose limbs unnecessarily to diabetes

Media Release

Diabetes New Zealand
21 November 2005

Diabetes Awareness Week 22 – 28 November 2005

Too many New Zealanders lose limbs unnecessarily to diabetes

With Diabetes Awareness Week beginning tomorrow (Tuesday 22 November), Diabetes New Zealand is calling for action to bring about a significant reduction in the number of diabetes related lower limb amputations. “At present, the number of amputations as a result of diabetes is unacceptable when the solutions are clear and affordable,” says Murray Dear, President of Diabetes New Zealand, the national organisation that represents the interests of all people with diabetes in New Zealand.

Every 30 seconds a lower limb is lost to diabetes throughout the world. In New Zealand there are 116,000 people diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, with another estimated 115,000 undiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and 300,000 at risk of Type 2 diabetes. People with diabetes are at risk of nerve damage and problems with blood supply to their feet which can lead to foot ulcers and slow-healing wounds. Amputation may be the outcome of infections in the wounds.

The diabetic foot is a significant economic problem, particularly when amputation results in prolonged hospitalisation, rehabilitation, and an increased need for home care and social services. In the year ended 30 June 2004, Ministry of Health figures show there were 516 lower limb amputations for people with diabetes in New Zealand; 50% of all lower limb amputations. The health costs excluding out-patient care was $5.8M, an average of $11,000 each.

Human costs associated with chronic foot ulcers and amputations reduce the quality of life. Loss of mobility results in severe restrictions in the activities of daily living including employment, recreation, shopping and home maintenance. Those affected may have problems with social and interpersonal relationships and suffer emotional distress.

It is estimated that with basic diabetes management and care, between 50% and 85% of diabetic foot amputations can be prevented. “Investments in prevention and education can mean fewer leg amputations, increased quality of life for people with diabetes and reductions in healthcare costs,” says Mr Dear.

Diabetes Awareness Week focuses on diabetes and foot care. Prevention is the first step towards solving diabetic foot problems including daily foot care, appropriate footwear and regular foot examinations by healthcare professionals. National Diabetes Awareness Week sponsors, AFT Pharmaceuticals, Shoe Clinic in association with Thorlo, SPARC and Kumfs, all make positive contributions to the foot health of New Zealanders.

“Diabetes New Zealand aims to reduce diabetes related amputations through advocating for good healthcare and educating on self-care”, says Mr Dear.

The theme for Diabetes Awareness Week is ‘Take the right steps. Feet First.’ “It is an opportunity for people to make lifestyle changes to prevent diabetic foot problems, however they need support from the health system to learn to self-manage effectively,” says Mr Dear. “Timely access to proper treatment and medical advice is also vital.”

The Pilot Diabetes Scorecard survey, released by Diabetes New Zealand on World Diabetes Day 14 November, reports that less than three quarters (68%) of people with diabetes have had their feet checked within the last 12 months and only 30% were referred to a podiatrist. However, almost two thirds (63%) of these people found the referral very useful and one third (33%) found it useful. On the other hand, 13% of podiatry appointments at DHBs were not attended.

“The pilot survey confirms there is a worrying gap in diabetic foot care services. The non-attendance rate for DHB podiatry appointments is an indication that many people with diabetes are unaware that prevention is the first step towards solving diabetic foot problems,” says Mr Dear. “There is an urgent need to provide both appropriate foot healthcare and education to bring about significant reductions in the number of diabetes related amputations in New Zealand.”


For Diabetes Awareness Week information:

The pilot scorecard survey, undertaken earlier this year, looked at diabetes services across Northland, Waitemata, Auckland, Hutt Valley and Southland DHBs. A copy of the report, Diabetes New Zealand Balanced Scorecard: Review of the Pilot Scorecard, is available on

For information on the global impact of the diabetic foot:

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