NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Diabetes crisis rocks remote Indigenous communities

Owler_Utopia_NT_Urapuntja_Health_Services_AMA

“One of the biggest problems is the level of diabetes.The rate is 30 times the national average, I was at Utopia talking to an endocrinologist who had seen a seven-year-old with type 2 diabetes. They thought it was probably the youngest case in the world. Sometimes whole families have the condition. And many go on to develop renal failure.”

AMA president Professor Brian Owler paying tribute to the tireless work of Aboriginal health services, the doctors, nurses and health staff caring for communities

Published from Australian Doctor Tessa Hoffman reporting

This is a world where entire families can have type 2 diabetes, including children aged just seven.

It is also a world where the general store shelves will be stacked with cheap Coca-Cola but half a rockmelon will cost $15.

This week, AMA president Professor Brian Owler (pictured, left) saw what this means in his visit to three remote Indigenous communities in the NT.

Related News: Utopia: the poorest place in Australia 

He said what he saw in Kintore, Ampilatwatja and Utopia left him deeply shocked despite being long familiar with the conditions faced by many remote Indigenous communities.

“One of the biggest problems is the level of diabetes.The rate is 30 times the national average,” Professor Owler said.

“I was at Utopia talking to an endocrinologist who had seen a seven-year-old with type 2 diabetes.

“They thought it was probably the youngest case in the world.

“Sometimes whole families have the condition. And many go on to develop renal failure.”

He said diet was an extremely important issue because of the cost of fresh food.

“In the stores the shelves are stacked with Coca-Cola and processed foods, and yet it costs $15 for half a rockmelon.

“So you can see where people spend money.”

But Professor Owler stressed that lack of access to good nutrition was not the only factor at play.

“Many of the children are lean and there is a theory that epigenetics is playing a role — that childhood diseases or poor antenatal care may predispose a child to it.”

The 2016 Closing the Gap report, recently released by the Federal Government, says there is still a 10-year gap in life expectancy rates for Indigenous Australians.

But that is a national average. In these communities the gap was closer to 17 years, Professor Owler said.

He paid tribute to the tireless work of Aboriginal health services, the doctors, nurses and health staff caring for communities.

“They are the unsung heroes who don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

Read the Closing the Gap 2016 report here.

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