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Health Ministry supports Diabetes Awareness Week

Media Release

22 November 2004

Ministry of Health supports Diabetes Awareness Week

Creating environments where it's easy to be healthy would have huge benefits for all New Zealanders, particularly those at risk from diabetes, the Ministry of Health said today.

Ministry spokesman Dr Sandy Dawson said communities that encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles could be instrumental in helping combat conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

``Diabetes Awareness Week launches tomorrow and it's a good time for all of us to think about how we can play a part in reducing the impact this life-threatening disease is having on our society,'' Dr Dawson said.

"With about 118,000 people diagnosed with diabetes and potentially a similar number who don't know they have it, diabetes is at epidemic proportions in New Zealand. It's estimated that by the end of this year more than 7500 people will have been newly diagnosed with diabetes. Of these more than 200 will be children and young people with newly developed type 1 diabetes, which we cannot prevent and which causes by far the biggest impact for individuals and their families.''

Importantly, type 2 diabetes, which is the most common type -- especially in Mäori and Pacific people -- can often be prevented and managed through lifestyle changes such as choosing healthy foods and doing more physical activity.

Dr Dawson said the Ministry fully supports Diabetes Awareness Week, which runs until November 29, and focuses on ?nipping it in the bud? -- looking at how people who have pre-diabetes can prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes by changes in diet and physical activity.

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``The new Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) are rising to the challenge of keeping people well,'' Dr Dawson said.

``Some PHOs are using their increased funding to offer people at risk early screening to detect diabetes. This screening also allows lifestyle advice for people with pre-diabetes which may include a Green Prescription with ongoing support provided by SPARC, and advice about nutritious foods to help keep the entire family healthy.

"We will always need health care that people trust and can afford to use if they are at risk, or if they actually develop diabetes. The good news is we now have more than two million people who can get more affordable care through their PHOs, and that includes paying less for many prescription medicines.

``However, local government, the food industry, schools, transport, and the workplace also need to be involved so that a healthy and more active lifestyle is achievable for everyone. It has been really encouraging to see so many organisations from these different sectors contribute to the `Healthy Eating, Healthy Action' implementation plan, which was developed by the Ministry of Health to coordinate interagency action to improve the environment to encourage better nutrition and more physical activity.''

Advances in tackling pre-diabetes are being made by District Health Boards (DHBs) across New Zealand, including Waikato DHB with its Te Wai O Rona project that's developing and testing the best ways to identify and support people with pre-diabetes.

Several other DHBs, for example Auckland, Counties Manukau and Mid Central, have comprehensive plans which include offering more intensive services for children and teenagers who are significantly overweight or otherwise at risk.

As well as trying to prevent ill health through health promotion and education, PHOs are also targeting long-term disease management through the new Care Plus service.

Introduced by the Ministry through PHOs from July this year, Care Plus is aimed at people who need to visit their family GP or nurse often because of significant long-term illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. Since its introduction, 55 of the country's 77 PHOs have taken up the Care Plus option, either by beginning the programme or entering the preparatory phase.


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