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$200m diabetes scheme ditched

December 19, 2011


Brighter future: Sara Lautee, 45, says participating in a lifestyle modification program has left her optimistic about reducing her diabetes risk. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

A $200 MILLION scheme designed to prevent diabetes in thousands of Australians has been scrapped by the federal government despite soaring rates of the condition, which costs the nation billions of dollars each year.

A government spokeswoman said it planned to stop funding from July the lifestyle modification programs for people in their 40s whose doctors had deemed them to be at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The scheme, allocated $200 million by the Council of Australian Governments in 2007, has meant people with multiple risk factors could be referred to a six-week course on changing their diet and activity levels to reduce their chance of getting the illness, which can lead to kidney failure and amputations.

Diabetes Australia policy adviser Greg Johnson said he was disappointed by the move, given that Australia had 2 million adults at high risk of type 2 diabetes and studies had shown the programs were successful.

”There’s evidence this works. You can prevent type 2 diabetes in 58 per cent of people … and the flow-on effect of that is that you’re preventing heart attacks, strokes and all the other terrible complications of diabetes,” he said.

The government spokeswoman said the scheme was being dumped because only about 3000 people had taken part since it began in 2008, whereas tens of thousands had been expected to. She refused to say how much of the $200 million had been spent or how it had been spent, but said she believed a significant proportion had been saved.

Adjunct Professor Johnson said the government had also cited implementation problems with the scheme, which the Australian General Practice Network was funded to deliver. Given a similar program in Victoria for people aged over 50 had had 20,000 participants over the past three years, he said, the federal government should have looked at barriers in the national program and removed them.

”Diabetes is one of the major drivers of preventable hospital admissions. About one-third of preventable admissions are related to diabetes and its complications … If we want to make inroads into the huge costs within our hospital system, we need to invest more into diabetes, not less,” he said.

The move comes in the same year the Gillard government dropped a $436 million plan for better co-ordination of care for people with diabetes in favour of a $30 million four-year pilot project.

The government spokeswoman said ”every effort” had been made to promote the lifestyle modification programs and that the government had simply decided to replace them with other initiatives, such as the ”become a swapper” television ads to encourage weight loss, and funding for workplaces to help staff be more active.

But Professor Johnson said the government’s efforts were not enough to prevent predictions coming true that one in five Australians would have diabetes by 2025 if governments did not intervene to prevent it in high-risk populations.

Diabetes diagnoses have soared in Australia over the past 30 years, in line with increased obesity. The condition is predicted to become the top cause of death and illness by 2016.

About a million people have diabetes, but researchers say that for every person diagnosed, there is likely to be another not yet diagnosed. It is estimated to cost Australia about $12 billion a year.

Sara Lautee, 45, urged the government to reconsider its decision. She found the lifestyle modification program helpful after she was referred to it with excess weight and a strong family history of diabetes.

Among other things, she said, it gave her an insight into why her previous weight loss efforts had failed.

”A lot of people might think they’re doing the right thing when they’re not,” she said. ”For example, you can be going to the shops and buying what you think are fat-free foods when they’re actually full of sugar. There’s a lot of little things that you just don’t know about.”

Ms Lautee said she was living a much healthier life and was optimistic about reducing her risk of diabetes and other problems, including heart disease.

”I might get diabetes one day because of my family history, but if I keep going the way I am now, maybe I’ll get it at 60 or 70 rather than in my 40s,” she said.


Article source: http://www.theage.com.au/national/200m-diabetes-scheme-ditched-20111218-1p0v7.html


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