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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9701


Mr LYONS (Bass) (21:08): I rise in the House today to speak about diabetes and to raise awareness of the good work being undertaken by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Nearly a million Australians are currently diagnosed with diabetes and it is Australia's fastest growing chronic disease. I recently met with a constituent in my electorate who has a son with type 1 diabetes. He is a keen advocate for diabetes awareness and for education of the community about what children and young adults go through when they have diabetes. When a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it affects the whole family and poses challenges for everyone. Common concerns include: anxiety about their condition; a dread of needles and multiple injections; a feeling of being overwhelmed by the relentless and lifelong nature of the condition; frustration over blood tests that show fluctuating blood glucose levels despite their best attempts at management; the stigma of feeling different; embarrassment about telling friends; and coping with the emotional reaction of family members.

Diabetes is a complex disease and can affect the entire body. The message I want to portray is that understanding diabetes is important even if you do not have it. You most likely know someone who has diabetes. This is because diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in Australia and globally. There are two types of diabetes—type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This type of diabetes is known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes and accounts for about 10 to 15 per cent of all people with the disease.

As an interesting aside, at the Launceston General Hospital in 1910, Dr John Ramsay transplanted pancreatic tissue to assist a patient with diabetes. This was done in 1910; the isolation of insulin was not made until 1921. Ramsay was a doctor well in advance of his time.

People with type 1 diabetes cannot survive without insulin, which has to be injected up to six times a day or continuously infused through a pump, and they also have to check their blood sugar levels up to eight times a day just to stay alive. As you can imagine, this is a huge burden for a young person with diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is associated with serious health complications including heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, blindness, stroke and amputation, as well as reduced life expectancy. Unfortunately, type 1 diabetes is not well understood, and this is a source of great concern. The JDRF's research has shown that nearly half of all parents have been made to feel that their child's disease was their fault. It is a lifelong disease—people do not grow out of it. This is an important message.

Diabetes type 2 is a lifestyle disease that is strongly associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight gain, particularly around the waist. Type 2 diabetes may be prevented but cannot be cured. As a community we should be very worried about type 2 diabetes. By 2031 it is estimated that 3.3 million Australians will have type 2 diabetes. While it usually affects mature adults, young people are now being diagnosed in greater numbers as rates of obesity increase. Type 2 diabetes often has no symptoms. About half of those who have type 2 diabetes have not yet been diagnosed, and even if the symptoms are present they are often not recognised or are attributed to other reasons such as being busy or getting older.

The total financial cost of type 2 diabetes is estimated to be $10.7 billion each year. Of this, carer costs were estimated to be $4.4 billion, productivity losses $4.1 billion, health system costs $1.1 billion and $1.1 billion due to obesity. Lifestyle factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include: being overweight, especially around the waist; low levels of physical activity; unhealthy eating habits, such as regularly choosing high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt and low-fibre foods; and smoking. We should all aim to increase the awareness in our communities about diabetes.

I take this opportunity to encourage all Australians to participate in the Walk to Cure events which are being held in Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide, Chermside, Melbourne, Perth and Launceston. Around 40,000 people will join the walk, and the goal is to raise $2 million for critical research. Participating in this walk is a good way to participate in your community and to raise money for this important cause. I hope all Australians and their families get active and stay healthy.