National Strategy for Diabetes in Australia 2016 – 2020

It is a big busy time in diabetes at the moment – we just had World Diabetes Day, and in conjunction with that, the Australian National Diabetes strategy launched for 2016 – 2020. This week the world diabetes congress is happening in Vancouver. We are following closely online and will be sharing so look for the stream on twitter with #WDC2015

Do you believe in strategies and whether they really make a difference? This is the first time in over 10 years that Australia has had a national strategy for diabetes. I think that they are important to give a compass for where we are headed, but it is the implementation plan that makes all the difference to people living with diabetes – which is not in existence yet when it comes to this plan.

We need practical steps to help achieve the goals listed in the strategy, which focuses strongly on prevention of type 2 diabetes, as well as on care and management to help people with diabetes live happy healthy lives. For those of us who already have it, that is the primary concern.

The strategy contains 7 main goals:

  1. Prevent people developing type 2 diabetes
  2. Promote awareness and earlier detection of type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  3. Reduce the occurrence of diabetes-related complications and improve quality of life among people with diabetes
  4. Reduce the impact of pre-existing and gestational diabetes in pregnancy
  5. Reduce the impact of diabetes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  6. Reduce the impact of diabetes among other priority groups; and
  7. Strengthen prevention and care through research, evidence and data.

Prevention features strongly and is vital, but it is the quality of life that interests us the most. To have happy healthy and productive people living with diabetes is the bottom line.

Although there is no implementation plan for the strategy as yet, Professor Zimmet reported in the Limbic, that the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group, which he co-chaired with Diabetes Australia President Hon Judi Moylan, included “overall recommendations on how to implement the strategy in its advice to Government, which was also published at launch”. The report says he is optimistic that an implementation committee will be formed early next year and believes it will be made up of representatives from federal and state and territory governments. He also hopes it might include some of the original advisory group.

I hope it includes some people with diabetes and a strong consumer voice. Having been the consumer voice on such advisory groups it is not an easy gig, but absolutely vital.

Professor Zimmet continues in the article on The Limbic that he is determined he and Judi Moylan will make sure there is  action from this new strategy and not just words on paper. He also says that the Minister for Health, the Hon Sussan Ley MP, has a very strong commitment to diabetes. We hope so.

From a political perspective, diabetes is the fastest growing disease in Australia and the health costs associated with its management and outcomes have the potential to cripple the health budget. More importantly from our perspective is the potential for diabetes to cripple people’s lives – this is not a disease to be taken lightly.

The main potential barrier to implementation of this strategy raised by Professor Zimmet is the strong push by the WHO for governments to have national chronic disease strategies and he continued to say – “A new strategy like ours is a move in Australia for a national chronic disease strategy, and diabetes shares a number of things with heart disease and cancer in relation to prevention. But when you get down to the nitty gritty of managing diabetes there are disease-related areas which do not fit into a chronic disease national strategy.”

His concern is that if we move to a national chronic disease strategy in Australia that diabetes will just get lost within the overall strategies and a lot of the recommendations that have been made for diabetes care, will not happen. There are unique issues that come with living with every chronic condition, and whilst a national approach is smart in some areas, each condition needs careful attention to the specific issues. In diabetes we know that diabetes specific distress is a huge part of the reduced wellbeing people with diabetes experience and this must be addressed in a particular way and not lumped into a chronic disease strategy.

We will be strongly advocating for action to ensure there are real steps in place to make life easier for people living with diabetes and hope that the implementation process of the new national strategy puts the psychosocial health of all people living with diabetes front and centre.