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Living With Diabetes: Pita Sharples Speaks Out

Living With Diabetes: Maori Party MP for Tamaki Makaurau Speaks Out

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Friday 17 November 2006

Dr Pita Sharples today spoke about the importance of healthy living to manage the challenge of living with diabetes.

“Our whanau is a Diabetes-Aware Whanau” said Dr Sharples. “In fact, our mokopuna can be our most enthusiastic supporters in understanding and managing diabetes within the family”.

“Diabetes affects far too many of our whanau to be complacent” said Dr Sharples.

In 2005, an estimated 125,000 New Zealanders were diagnosed with diabetes, 22% of them Maori. The estimated prevalence of diabetes in Maori is about 20% - about four times higher than for Pakeha. Maori also tend to develop diabetes far earlier than non-Maori, onset of the disease commonly occurring at age 45; ten years earlier than non-Maori.

“This is a crisis by anyone’s estimates” said Dr Sharples. “If we saw the sort of ratios we’re seeing for Maori with diabetes in any other group of New Zealanders, my belief is that all stops would be pulled, to do something about it”.

“It’s absolutely gross that the chequebook seems over-flowing for a stadium, while a group of New Zealanders is suffering at pandemic scale from diabetes”.

“Our whanau has had direct involvement with the complications of diabetes – within our wider whanau we have known the pain of strokes, blindness, kidney dialysis, limb amputations, feet problems, infections that won’t go away, and all the other impacts of this disease. It’s a life-long challenge – and we all try to play our part in preventing the onset of further problems” said Dr Sharples.

“When whanau are working so hard to ‘be healthy’ it’s devastating to read headlines saying ‘Maori are facing extinction from diabetes’ or to learn that the Government spends less on health, and we have fewer doctors and hospital beds than many comparable nations” said Dr Sharples.

“Against all odds, the Maori Party was delighted to read the comments from Murray Dear, President of Diabetes New Zealand, who has just returned from the “Diabetes in Indigenous People’s Forum” in Melbourne this week.

“It is a real boost to hear the President say “In the end it is the indigenous communities themselves that will capture their own future”” said Dr Sharples.

“I hope the Government was listening. The Diabetes President highlighted the scarcity of investment that is being allocated to our communities, concluding ““There must also be a strong and adequately funded public health response from Government that lightens the load for these communities as they battle this growing epidemic”.

“I was really rapt to hear such insights from Murray Dear, and the Maori Party will be doing all that we can, to ensure that his expert advice is taken up, to ensure diabetes is well-managed within indigenous communities, for the long-term vision of a healthy nation” ended Dr Sharples.

“The great thing is – all of us have the capacity to live a healthy life – to go to the pool, walk around the block, make a healthy kai instead of McDs or fish' chips” said Dr Sharples.

“I’m hoping that the crowds will be out in force in Auckland on Sunday to go to the Diabetes Auckland “Walking with the Stars’ Event at Takapuna Beach” said Dr Sharples.

“It’s events like that – encouraging us all to push-play and exercise – that can make the difference with diabetes”.

“Early intervention is the key to stopping this epidemic in its tracks” said Dr Sharples.

Background Information

The Commonwealth Fund survey released today, of nine developed nations, shows New Zealand is near the bottom of the league table for several key indicators of health.

The report showed total public funding of health in New Zealand was the lowest of all those compared at $1600 per person, and below the OECD median of $1900.

New Zealand also scored very poorly in the rates for diabetes - totalling 72 years of lost life per 100,000 people – nearly double Australia's rate of 39 which matched the OECD median.

For more information about Walking with the Stars, contact Diabetes Auckland, ph (09) 623-2508


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