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Ministry of Health continues to target Diabetes

Ministry of Health continues to target Diabetes

Media Release

20 November 2001

Ministry of Health continues to target Diabetes

National Diabetes Awareness Week has highlighted the encouraging number of people who have taken advantage of a free annual check for diabetes under the Ministry of Health's Get Checked Diabetes Programme introduced last year.

Statistics from Primary Care Organisations around New Zealand show thousands of New Zealanders with diabetes are visiting their doctors for an annual check up.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Sandy Dawson said Get Checked has improved the quality of primary care for many New Zealanders with diabetes and its success was a credit to the GPs, nurses and other members of primary care organisations offering the free checks.

"We would like to see 70% of the expected number of people with diabetes in each region enrolled in programs with free annual checks by June 2002."

Available statistics show in the Midland region (Waikato, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Taranaki and Hawkes Bay) two-thirds of people expected to have diabetes had received a free annual check by the end of October 2001.

The Get Checked programme was launched in June 2000 and aimed to improve the health of people with diabetes through regular monitoring of the person's physical health, lifestyle and management of the disease.

It is important for people with diabetes to get regular checks of their eyes, feet, kidneys and blood pressure to pick up any diabetes complications early so that they can be treated and further deterioration can be prevented.

Reducing the incidence and impact of diabetes is one of the Government's priorities drawn from the aims and objectives identified in the New Zealand health Strategy and the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

Currently over 110,000 people in New Zealand are diagnosed with diabetes and it is estimated that the same number of people might be affected but are undiagnosed.

The disease causes more than 1500 deaths each year and diabetes complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputations are major contributors to the burden of disease and disability.

The disease is three times more common in Maori and Pacific people and by 2011 the number of Maori people with diabetes is expected to have nearly doubled.

Dr Dawson said the Ministry of Health was working to improve accessibility and the appropriateness of services for Maori and other at-risk groups.

"Forty-one Maori mobile disease-state nurses have now completed post graduate training in diabetes care and feedback from Maori communities is that diabetes care, information and education is now more accessible."

Health Minister Annette King celebrated another community-based intitiative this week when she opened the new Diabetes Tauranga Information Centre.

The centre is run by Tauranga Diabetes Inc volunteers and provides information and advice for people with diabetes and their families.

Ministry of Health initiatives in place to reduce the impact of diabetes include:

The establishment of Local Diabetes Teams in District Health Boards area linking providers and consumers to plan, review and monitor diabetes services in each area. Each Local Diabetes Team will report to its DHB in February 2002 and give details on the number of people who have had free annual checks in their region.

Funding for a research strategy aimed at developing ways of reducing the incidence of type-2 diabetes. The research will be funded in partnership with the Health Research Council with each partner committing $250,000 per annum.

Ongoing world-class retinal screening services are being offered in a number of hospitals and from some mobile units including those in Waikato and Otago. Capital and Coast, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa District Health Boards have agreed to join forces to offer a community based eye-screening service. This will involve primary care organisations working with optometrists using latest technology cameras under the quality control of an ophthalmologist.

Earlier this month Health Minister Annette King launched a set of Toolkits to help District Health Boards reach the objectives of the New Zealand Health Strategy. The Diabetes Toolkit looks at the major risk factors of diabetes and gives information on diabetes services, guidelines, sources of information and organisations that can be used to tackle the problem of diabetes.

Funding the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind for 40 voice glucose meters. Voice glucose meters enable sight impaired or blind people with diabetes to independently monitor their blood glucose levels as part of their diabetic management. The meters have an electronic voice that announces the blood glucose level.


For more information contact: Hayley Brock Media Advisor (04) 496 2115, 025 495 989


What is Diabetes? Diabetes is a disease of raised blood glucose (sugar). The level of blood glucose is controlled by insulin - a hormone produced by the pancreas. There are two main types of diabetes - Type-1: insulin dependent diabetes which is caused by destruction of the insulin producing cells which leads to an insulin deficiency; - Type-2: non-insulin dependent diabetes caused by resistance of the body's cells to insulin and a relative insulin deficit.

Type-2 diabetes accounts for 90-95% of all cases in New Zealand, and is the focus of the information here.

What is the impact of diabetes? Diabetes damages almost all tissues and organs in the body, from the high levels of blood glucose. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation. It is also a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

What are the risk factors for diabetes? The cause of diabetes is not known however what is known is that people who are overweight (especially around the tummy) and physically inactive have a significantly increased risk of developing type-2 diabetes. Diabetes also has a hereditary component. It is more common in Maori, Pacific and Asian people. Its prevalence increases with age with one in six of those over 60 years being diagnosed with diabetes.

Is diabetes a problem in New Zealand? Diabetes is recognised as a growing problem here in New Zealand and overseas. Taking the Pulse, a Ministry of Health report on the New Zealand Health Survey 1996/97, shows that there has been an increase in the number of New Zealanders with diabetes. It is estimated that 2-5% of all New Zealanders are affected by diabetes. Five to 10% of Maori adults are affected and 4-8% of Pacific adults.

How much does diabetes cost the nation? There is only limited information on the total cost of diabetes. A major part of the cost of diabetes is borne by the people who have it. There are also significant indirect cost, both to the individual and society. Inpatient costs alone are estimated at $95-million per year and prescription costs at $29-million per year.

What do trends over time indicate? The number of people with diabetes in New Zealand is predicted to rise substantially in the future largely due to increasing levels of obesity, falling levels of physical activity and an aging population.

Can it be prevented The risk of developing type-2 diabetes (which increases as we age), can be reduced by regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes of brisk walking per day is one recommendation), cutting down on fat (especially animal fat) and increasing the fruit and vegetable content of the diet (5+ a day). Keeping a healthy weight reduces the risk of diabetes. Becoming and staying smoke-free may also help

These lifestyle changes will not only reduce the risk of developing diabetes, but also heart disease and some cancers.

Educating and supporting communities to adopt healthy lifestyles is likely to be the most effective way of achieving and maintaining these lifestyle changes.

If you have Diabetes how do you control it? In some people type-2 diabetes may be controlled by the lifestyle changes above. In some cases oral medication or injections of insulin will be needed. Insulin is always needed to control type-1 diabetes. All these aim to keep the blood glucose at a normal level.

It is also important for people with diabetes to get regular checks of their eyes, feet, kidneys and blood pressure to pick up any diabetes complications early so that they can be treated and further deterioration can be prevented.

How do you test for diabetes? People at high risk of developing type-2 diabetes are encouraged to discuss having a blood test with their GP or primary care nurse.

What type of complications can develop through having diabetes? Diabetes can affect almost all tissues in the body, but the most common complications include heart attacks, stroke, blindness, renal failure, amputations and impotence.

If tested once and found not to have diabetes does that mean I will not contract it at all? No. The risk of developing type-2 diabetes increases with age, and if you are at risk of getting diabetes, regular testing is advised (as well as the lifestyle changes to reduce your risk). It is also possible to get a false negative result - where the test is negative, even with diabetes. No test is 100% effective.

Hayley Brock Media Advisor Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

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