Diabetes statistics ‘sobering reminder’ of the need for awareness

Morgan Liotta

15/07/2019 11:35:27 AM

National Diabetes Week is an important reminder for healthcare providers and patients to be aware of risk factors and early detection.

Diabetes in Australia.
It is estimated that 280 Australians develop diabetes every day.

Currently around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes, 280 will develop diabetes every day, and 100,000 have developed diabetes in the past year.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the prevalence of diabetes has tripled between 1989–90 and 2014–15, and the proportion of people with diabetes has increased from 1.5% to 4.7%. It is estimated that the cost impact of diabetes in Australia is $6 billion for type 2 and $570 million for type 1.
Diabetes Australia’s National Diabetes Week aims to raise further awareness of the importance of prevention and early detection of one of the ‘biggest challenges confronting Australia’s health system’.
Dr Gary Deed, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Diabetes network and Senior Research Fellow at Monash University, agrees that the burden of diabetes is growing.
‘Diabetes remains one of the key public health epidemics that we haven’t successfully found all the solutions for, to address the escalating number of people developing type 2 diabetes,’ he told newsGP.
‘This burden is carried by the population, the individuals, but also by key players in the health system, such as GPs.’
According to Dr Deed, this burden partly sits with general practice due to a current lack of specialists to address the rising need for management, particularly of type 2 diabetes – which he says presents in 10% of all people attending general practice.
‘GPs have a role in being proactively aware, and to develop practice-based systems for appropriate assessment and screening of people at risk of, or who have developed diabetes,’ he said.
‘Keeping up to date with the management principles and tools needed to support people with diabetes [is also important], from the spectrum of newly diagnosed to those requiring complex injectable regimes, and with multimorbidity.’
Successful integration of diabetes preventive care into practise involves the same procedures as with every chronic disease, Dr Deed believes, and ongoing professional development for GPs is vital.
‘A well-established clinic structure with recalls and reviews aligned to best-practice cycles of care [is important], plus support and education for support staff like practice nurses to gain confidence in maintaining these systems,’ he said.
‘Maintaining education for each GP is essential, as new evidence for therapies and technologies are developing that provide more precision with respect to individualising care across the spectrum of type 2 diabetes presentations.’ 
Dr Deed recommends regular review and assessment of lifestyle risk factors through an annual cycle of care, as outlined in General practice management of type 2 diabetes: 2016–18, for which he was co-clinical editor.
Key non-modifiable factors include:

  • genetic risk elevates – if parents have had type 2 diabetes or the mother has gestational diabetes
  • ageing – especially over the age of 65 years
  • ethnicity
  • previous gestational diabetes.
Key modifiable factors include: 
  • excess weight – overweight or obesity
  • unhealthy diet high in certain fats
  • lack of recommended physical activity
  • certain medications used to treat mental illness, or corticosteroids
  • tobacco and alcohol consumption
  • hypertension and hyperlipidaemia.
‘The role of general practice goes a long way in supporting patients to prevent development of complications, and [to also help] prevent unnecessary hospitalisation through regular reviews and recalls,’ Dr Deed said.

GPs also play an important role in assessing and supporting the psychosocial impacts of diabetes – such as depression – which may be assisted by simple primary care intervention, according to Dr Deed.
‘Unless we stay vigilant, aware and advocate for ongoing changes, opportunities will be lost, burdens to all involved will increase, and ultimately the future health of our generation will be worse than today – a sobering reminder of the need for awareness weeks such as Diabetes Week,’ Dr Deed said.
The RACGP offers a suite of resources to assist GPs in prevention, diagnosis and management of diabetes:

diabetes National Diabetes Week preventive health

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