16 November 2006
Increasing Toll from Diabetes is Frightening
The destructive impact of diabetes on individuals, families, communities and whole populations is the clear message
Murray Dear, President of Diabetes New Zealand, has brought back from the “Diabetes in Indigenous People’s Forum” which
he attended in Melbourne this week.
A statement by Professor Paul Zimmet, the director of the International Diabetes Institute, that indigenous populations
such as Maori and Aborigine could be wiped out by diabetes by the end of the century provoked extensive media interest
in New Zealand and around the world.
“Sometimes it takes a person of Professor Zimmet’s stature to bring attention to a matter as serious as this one. There
needs to be active public discussion on this matter so that its importance is fully understood and we recognise the
scale of the response that is required,”says Mr Dear.
“It’s bad enough to contemplate the loss of animal species, which happens very frequently, but when there is the
prospect of the loss of human “species”, if I could put it that way, then we get a glimpse of just how serious the
challenges are that face us.
“There are potential solutions but none of them is easy. In the end it is the indigenous communities themselves that
will capture their own future and there are some excellent initiatives emerging amongst indigenous populations. But too
often their resources are meager and their leaders are under heavy demand in many directions.
“There must also be a strong and adequately funded public health response from Government that lightens the load for
these communities as they battle this growing epidemic,” he says.
“In particular, there is a pressing need for the early detection of Type 2 diabetes amongst those at highest risk,
including Maori and Pacific peoples, and that their diabetes is well managed to avoid long term complications such as
heart disease, stroke, renal failure, lower limb amputation and blindness.
“Diabetes New Zealand is very active on this issue. In particular it is to host an international congress on diabetes in
Wellington in 2008 with the specific purpose of bringing international experts to this country to raise awareness about
diabetes and to encourage the search for solutions. Involving up to 2000 delegates from Asia and the Western Pacific, it
will demonstrate just how much community and medical effort is required to forestall the progress of this epidemic,”
says Mr Dear.
The subject of the congress is “Working for Solutions” and will feature discussion on many aspects of diabetes and in
particular its impact on indigenous peoples and youth.