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More family funding needed for Type 1 diabetes

Media Release
Diabetes New Zealand

Monday 19 November, 2007

More family funding needed for Type 1 diabetes

Following the Australian government’s recent pledge of increased funding to support a national insulin pump grants programme for Australian children with Type 1 diabetes, Diabetes New Zealand and Diabetes Youth New Zealand are calling for greater funding for insulin pumps than the $60,000 that is provided nationally at the moment.

‘In Australia $A22 million will be provided to improve the availability of insulin pump technology for struggling Australian families,’ says Diabetes New Zealand President Mike Smith. ‘We would like to see similar initiatives in this country, too. Diabetes Awareness Week, which is 20 to 26 November, is focusing on young people and Type 1 diabetes, and this is a good time to be looking at these issues.’

The incidence of Type 1 diabetes in New Zealand is increasing nationwide. About 15,000 people in this country have Type 1 diabetes, including 3,500 who are aged 25 and under, and the numbers are estimated to be growing at 5% annually.

‘New Zealand has one of the highest rates of paediatric diabetes in the world, and is ranked in the top 10% for risk of childhood diabetes according to the WHO DiaMond Study,’ says diabetes scientist Dr Jinny Willis.

‘Beyond the statistics, there is the human story to this,’ says Diabetes Youth New Zealand President Adrian Coombe. ‘For young people with Type 1 diabetes there are no breaks and no short cuts. Type 1 diabetes can’t be prevented or cured.

‘This is a lifelong disease and it does have implications for the wider population. This has a huge impact on the lives of these children and young people. It affects their families and their communities.’

Diabetes New Zealand would like to see more research carried out in this area and more funding for a scientific examination of the reasons for this increase.

‘We have to ask, where are the researchers here? Once again, we’re calling for a register that can record and track the statistics here and be used to truly calculate the numbers and needs of people with diabetes. There is some terrific work done in New Zealand by Dr Willis and her colleagues at Christchurch Hospital and the University of Otago, Christchurch, but Diabetes New Zealand would like to see more research funded and more money put into this area,’ continues Mike Smith.

The Christchurch team have accurate records of all Canterbury children and young people diagnosed with diabetes from 1970 to the present day. This register of children with Type 1 diabetes is a unique resource by New Zealand and international standards.
Canterbury appears to be a 'hot spot' for Type 1 diabetes. There has been a three- to four-fold increase in the number of children and young people with Type 1 diabetes in Canterbury over the last 35 years.

‘In the 1970s there were 5-10 children and young people diagnosed annually, compared with current rates of at least 30 new cases in the region each year,’ says Dr Willis. We still can’t explain the rapid increase in attack rates, but at least we are able to offer screening and participation in international diabetes prevention programmes to anyone who has a close relative with Type 1 diabetes.’

‘At Diabetes Youth, we’re very aware of the numbers of New Zealand families meeting the challenges of Type 1 diabetes,’ says Adrian Coombe. ‘There is an economical and emotional cost with this disease for families. We would like the government to invest in the best disease management to give these families the best possible future.’


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