Diabetes: Protect our rural future

14 November 2012

Today is World Diabetes Day and this year’s theme is Diabetes: Protect our Future. It is timely, on this official United Nations Day, to consider some facts.

More people in rural and remote Australia have diabetes compared with those in the cities. Death rates associated with diabetes remained stable at around 45 deaths per 100,000 per population among people living in outer regional, remote and very remote areas between 1997 and 2006, despite falling from 38 to 30 deaths per 100,000 for people in major cities over that time.

People in rural and remote communities are also at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the most common type, which is a chronic condition marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. High alcohol consumption, low levels of physical activity, poor diet and smoking all increase the chance of getting Type 2 Diabetes.

People in rural and remote areas generally have higher rates of risk factors than their peers in major cities. Smoking not only increases the risk of getting diabetes but also increases complications for those who have diabetes. Smoking is the number 1 preventable cause of death in the world and the Alliance has welcomed the Australian Government’s plain packaging initiative.

Pleasingly, the latest data from the ABS National Health Surveys show that smoking rates in Inner Regional and Outer Regional parts of Australia have decreased between 2001 and 2011-12. However, the declines in those areas have been much slower than in Major Cities. This demonstrates that urban-centric strategies are not working well in rural areas and that more targeted health promotion needs to be undertaken.

Much can be done to minimise the risk of getting diabetes and to minimise the effects for people who have it. Community based programs targeting at-risk groups in rural and remote communities can help reduce obesity and smoking, and thus Type 2 Diabetes. And at a national level, the Australian National Health Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) would do well to devote a significant proportion of its resources to the particular challenges of preventing rural and remote chronic conditions – commensurate with health need.

Diabetes Australia is online at http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/ or call 1300 136 588.

Media Enquiries: 

Dr Lesley Barclay - Chair: 0412 282 801
Gordon Gregory - Executive Director: 02 6285 4660