Government under fire for axed diabetes program

Published: December 19, 2020

By Simon Santow

Updated December 19, 2020 16:28:02

Diabetes Australia says the Government has taken a short-term view in cutting the prevention program.

The Federal Government is under attack for cutting a health prevention program aimed at helping Australians with a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Australia says the Government is taking a short-term view with an eye to its budget surplus but will be forced to shell out more money in the longer-term.

The Government allocated $200 million over four years to implement a program designed to identify patients at high risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

General practitioners were supposed to spot the at-risk patients and then direct them towards dieticians and other health professionals.

They, in turn, would advise on ways to promote healthier lifestyles and generally attack the causes of the disease.

Greg Johnson, the national policy adviser for Diabetes Australia, hopes the Government will reconsider its decision to cut the program.

“We’re very disappointed of course that this funding has ceased and we are very hopeful though that the Australian Government will reconsider fairly quickly because this was a very important Australian Government investment,” he said.

He says there were teething problems implementing the program, but they could have been overcome.

“It is common that when we start new programs and new national programs like this that… implementation is not easy. Things just don’t magically happen. It takes hard work,” he said.

“If you’re at high risk of type 2 diabetes and you’ve been told that but you have to wait three months to go through a whole lot of hoops to start doing something about it, then you’ll lose interest.

“So that time and delay is a barrier and people will lose interest, lost motivation and they won’t get into the programs and there were time delays happening in the Commonwealth program related to the way it was designed.”

Mr Johnson says the Government has taken a very short-term view in cutting the program.

“I think the community and everyone we talk to understands that dealing with the after-effects is a huge problem and a huge cost on our hospital system, huge concern to the community that we now have over a million Australians known and diagnosed with diabetes,” he said.

“In the case of type 2 diabetes and this high risk group, we actually have very strong evidence that we can do something. We can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes in the high risk group through this intense dose of lifestyle behaviour change.”

‘Ahead of the game’

He says the program put Australia at the head of the pack in terms of investing in diabetes programs.

“We are seeing countries around the world starting investing in these programs for high-risk people - in the USA it is happening, in China, in Europe, around the world governments are realising and investing very, very serious hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

“Australia was actually ahead of the game so to speak back in 2007 when we started on this path but this is a very disappointing decision.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Ageing told The World Today the Government runs many other programs designed to address “lifestyle chronic diseases”.

But Mr Johnson does not buy that argument.

“This is about high-risk prevention for people who are measurably at high risk, what we call pre-diabetes. There are no other programs that are targeting that group,” he said.

“There are general programs to promote healthy communities, healthy schools, healthy workplaces and there are social marketing campaigns like the Swap It campaign.

“That is all fine. We support that. That is all about creating a healthier community but this program was about the very large number of people who are at high risk right now and giving them evidence-based prevention.

“We have the best possible evidence that we can do something. That’s what this program was about.”



First posted December 19, 2020 16:28:02

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Published December 19, 2020 by in news
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