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Labor calls for govt to get serious on diabetes and obesity

10 July, 2007

In National Diabetes Week, Labor calls on the Health Minister to act now for the sake of our future generations, according to Julia Gillard.

"The dramatic increase in the incidence of diabetes must be a wake up call to the Minister for Health to get serious about diabetes and obesity.

"With almost 300 Australians being diagnosed with diabetes every day, it is time the Minister for Health accepted that his government has a much greater role in the prevention and early detection of this devastating disease.

"Diabetes already costs Australia around $5 billion a year, and this cost will continue to rise unless the Federal Government develops a comprehensive policy response and works in genuine partnership with the State and Territory Governments to address diabetes and obesity, which is the precursor to most cases of Type 2 diabetes.

"Around one in 700 Australian children has juvenile diabetes (Type 1). It accounts for 98 per cent of all diabetes in childhood and about half of all people with this form of diabetes develop it before they turn 18. Type 1 diabetes is increasing at a rate of 3.2% a year and over the past five years the incidence has doubled in children under 5 years of age.

"Type 2 diabetes which is usually seen only in adults is increasingly being reported in children. The reasons for the increase in Type 1 diabetes are not known, but researchers believe that environmental factors may play a role. The increase in Type 2 diabetes is almost certainly connected to the increase in obesity in children.

"Diabetes is now the fastest growing chronic disease amongst Australian children. The management of Type 1 diabetes in young children is difficult and must be done well to protect against severe consequences such as blindness, heart disease, and loss of limbs in later life.

"It has a major impact on the quality of children’s lives and is expensive to treat. Patients require up to 6 injections of insulin a day and must test their blood glucose levels four or more times a day.

"Of course, not all conditions can be prevented, however, it is estimated that 90 per cent of Type 2 diabetes are preventable.

"Disturbingly, Tony Abbott has no plan or policy to halt the increasing incidence of diabetes, obesity, eating disorders or food allergies in our kids and clearly has no intention of developing one. Without effective prevention and early intervention strategies, the situation will unfortunately get worse.

"The Howard Government has failed to conduct a National Nutrition Survey, despite clear recommendations from the Health Department that the Survey is integral to the development of health policy.

"Labor is concerned that if such modern health conditions are not addressed now, future generations simply will not have the long and productive life that we want for our kids and grandchildren.

"As a result, in February 2006, Labor Leader Kim Beazley announced that a Beazley Labor Government will roll out a national childhood obesity campaign through Labor’s Centre for Children’s Health and Labor’s National Nutrition Centre as a priority.

"Health Minister, Tony Abbott has responsibility for our kids’ health and the way our Federal health dollars are spent. If he was wise, caring and fiscally responsible, he would commit now to the long–term efforts that will be required to reduce the impact of diabetes."

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