NACCHO supports World Health Day #WHD2016 by issuing a call for action on diabetes

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“When type 2 diabetes was first suggested to Norm as the cause of his dizziness, he found it hard to believe. For a while he was in denial, until a blood glucose test confirmed it.

A series of serious and life-changing events, including a motorbike accident and cancer diagnosis, made it difficult for Norm to get into any sort of routine to manage his diabetes. After suffering a stroke, he decided he needed to focus on his diabetes, especially because it was one aspect of his health he could control.”

See Norms story below

Close the gap is about generational change and there are no quick fixes. Real gains, although small, are already being made in life expectancy and other key areas like maternal and child health.

The number of Indigenous Australians affected by the disease is particularly alarming.  Statistics show that one in six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (18 per cent of the population) have diabetes or high blood sugar levels. 

Rates of diabetes are higher in remote areas, and compared to the rest of the population, Indigenous Australians are more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous people to have the disease.

We need to see continued, long-term commitments from all levels of government in the programs that work. In health, it’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services that are making the biggest inroads against the targets to close the gap.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke on World Health Day 2016

“The number of people living with diabetes has almost quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults, with most living in developing countries. Factors driving this dramatic rise include overweight and obesity, WHO announced ahead of World Health Day.

WHO is marking its annual World Health Day (7 April), which celebrates the Organization’s founding in 1948, by issuing a call for action on diabetes. In its first “Global report on diabetes”, WHO highlights the need to step up prevention and treatment of the disease.

Measures needed include expanding health-promoting environments to reduce diabetes risk factors, like physical inactivity and unhealthy diets, and strengthening national capacities to help people with diabetes receive the treatment and care they need to manage their conditions.

See Report Here

“This year World Health Day is focused on beating diabetes, a disease which affects up to 1.7 million Australians according to Diabetes Australia figures “

Alison Verhoeven
Chief Executive, The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association

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Norm is now monitoring his diet and slowly losing weight in an effort to improve his blood glucose levels. He’s determined not to let his diabetes stop him from doing the things he enjoys and urges others in a similar situation not to be ashamed of their condition, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Rates of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are estimated to be three times higher than for other Australians.

“The blood glucose test they do for diabetes is easy. It can be hard to change your lifestyle but with diabetes, it’s better to do something sooner rather than later.”

Norm’s doctor helped him sign up to the National Diabetes Services Scheme* (NDSS) when he was diagnosed, which gave him access to test strips, syringes and pen needles at much lower prices.

Norm says that more education is needed so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities know about the benefits of the NDSS and the range of support services it provides for people with diabetes.

As the NDSS support services are targeted in areas with the highest number of registrations, people who register are helping ensure others in their community can get the support they need.

In his regular men’s group meetings, Norm says the guys were surprised to hear that his stroke was most likely caused by diabetes.

“They were shocked when they found out I had diabetes, and that it may have caused my stroke. I think we find it hard to relate to diabetes until we see someone who is directly affected by it.”

Diabetes educator Michael Porter talks to Norm’s men’s group about health issues every few months. He often encourages men at the group to get tested, and if they have diabetes, to register for the NDSS.

“Joining the NDSS can help fight diabetes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Anyone with diabetes can sign-up and get access to free and discounted products to help them live well with diabetes. The NDSS card also gives people access to education sessions and support groups, which can really help them make changes to get their health back on track.

“If we know there are a large number of people in an area with diabetes, then we can make sure to provide more support and education services in that area. The NDSS helps us to know where services are most needed.”

*The National Diabetes Scheme is an initiative of the Australian Government administered by Diabetes Australia. Major sponsor  NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper Page 10 April edition : Download 24 pages here

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World Health Day’s diabetes focus shows importance of funding Healthier Medicare

World Health Day is a timely reminder of the importance of delivering proper funding for the government’s recently announced health care home trials, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

“This year World Health Day is focused on beating diabetes, a disease which affects up to 1.7 million Australians according to Diabetes Australia figures,” Ms Verhoeven said.

“The Commonwealth recently announced its Healthier Medicare package which includes measures that would be a welcome support for people with chronic disease, including some with diabetes. However, the funding for these reforms is very limited and tied to broader health funding, where further reform is still required.”

The proposal for Healthier Medicare included allocating an additional $21 million to the package, in addition to withholding $70 million in state hospital funding, to pay for the reforms. However, the AHHA has called on the government to consider alternative funding methods, including drawing money from the Medical Research Future Fund to support and evaluate the trials.

“The allocated funding is insufficient to fully implement the Healthier Medicare reforms,” Ms Verhoeven said.

“Additionally, without adequate evidence that the reforms are delivering a reduction in hospitalisations, withholding funding from hospitals remains an unsatisfactory solution.”

“The government’s priority must be to develop durable, adequate funding to support an equitable, accessible, sustainable health system that provides quality outcomes for all Australians.”

The AHHA also urges the government to consider preventive measures to halt Australia’s climbing obesity rates, to help reduce the growing burden of two of Australia’s most common chronic conditions – diabetes and heart disease.

“If funding is withheld from hospitals, reducing preventable hospitalisations will become a vital part of ensuring the health system does not become overburdened,” Ms Verhoeven said.

There remain questions over which approach the Commonwealth Government will take to tax reform and funding of the health system. The AHHA has called on state, territory and Commonwealth governments to proceed carefully on tax and health system reform and ensure there remains a consistent capacity for funding quality health services across all states into the future.

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