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Diabetes Robs us of Our Future, Says Tariana Turia

‘Diabetes Robs us of Our Future’ Says Tariana Turia;

Maori Party Health Spokesperson

Tuesday 14 November 2006

Tariana Turia, Health Spokesperson for the Maori Party, today reacted with concern at the headlines stating Maori are “facing extinction” from diabetes.

Professor Paul Zimmet, will be presenting research findings at the Diabetes in Indigenous People Forum in Melbourne, which describe the disproportionate toll of diabetes upon indigenous peoples as a “tragedy threatening to consume world economies and bankrupt health systems”.

“The conclusions from Professor Zimmet’s research, that without urgent action, we face the risk of entire cultures being decimated by diabetes must surely force the Government to face the crisis confronting Maori and Pasifika peoples in Aotearoa” said Mrs Turia.

“The Government has been aware for some time now, that diabetes has reached pandemic proportions over the past ten years” said Mrs Turia.

“But for Maori, the estimated prevalence of diabetes has risen to about 20% - a rate some three to four times higher than European. Maori also develop diabetes about ten years earlier than non-Maori”.

“The tragedy about this – is we can do something about it” said Mrs Turia. “instead of just sitting and doing nothing, noho puku, the Government could be acting now to invest in life – and prevent the ongoing and devastating complications of diabetes such as blindness, limb amputation, or kidney failure”.

PricewaterhouseCoopers projections indicate that the total cost of diabetes could be reduced over twenty years if existing services were increased as soon as possible.

“While funding is desperately needed to support whanau on dialysis, there are also long-term preventive strategies that could benefit from wise investment such as screening; health promotion, prevention and treatment of diabetes”.

“It’s a matter of much better utilisation of the health system to prolong life, rather than, say, just accepting the disproportionate rates of diabetic renal failure for Maori, with rates up to ten times those of non-Maori.

“We must invest in whakapapa - our future generations” said Mrs Turia. “While this Government is happy enough to invest in other health conditions, it is lagging way behind in current services for diabetes”

Budget 2005 earmarked $26 million to increase the stock of anti-viral medications as part of pandemic planning.

“A dollar now will save additional expenditure down the track” said Mrs Turia. “Diabetes brings with it significant costs to our whanau, to our communities, to our future. We cannot wait a minute longer”.

Mrs Turia also spoke about some of the innovative projects that have been established amongst indigenous native American people, such as the Native American Diabetes Project, a community-based health care model which is designed to stem the deadly tide of diabetes among Native Americans by emphasizing the healing power of traditional foods.

“The experience of native American people living with diabetes, is that they believe their success in beating diabetes has come from determining their own solutions” said Mrs Turia. “Government has been prepared to invest in their capacity to manage their own solutions – our Government should take a leaf out of their book”.


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