Diabetes groups welcome inquiry recommendations

Public health

By Siobhan Calafiore

8 Jul 2024

Expanded access to new diabetes technologies, such as continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps, and a controversial call for a sugary drink tax, are among the headline recommendations from an inquiry into diabetes.

The final report [link here] from the year-long inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport was tabled in parliament last week, with 23 recommendations on how to strengthen diabetes care.

The committee called on the government to expand subsidised access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, including removing all limitations for type 1 diabetes, and to also increase eligibility to include people with type 2 and type 3c diabetes requiring regular insulin and people with gestational diabetes.

It also wanted expanded subsidised access to insulin pumps for patients with T1D.

Other recommendations included expanding eligibility criteria for GLP-1 receptor agonists, particularly for high-risk patients, subject to a positive recommendation from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, as well as mechanisms for securing supplies of the limited agent for disadvantaged and remote communities.

The committee wanted the government to fund longer MBS consultations, support access to telehealth and case conferencing models, especially in rural areas, as well as consider expanding access to bariatric surgery within the public system

It also demanded the government introduce clearer front-of-pack food labelling targeting added sugar, a graduated levy on sugar-sweetened drinks and stricter regulation on junk food marketing and advertising to children.

Diabetes Australia said the recommendations would “help arrest the diabetes epidemic” in Australia, particularly those around equitable access to technologies.

“This report includes a comprehensive package of measures that can really make a difference, and we need to see them implemented together. There is no single solution; we need strong action on all fronts,” said CEO Justine Cain.

The RACP has also urged the government to swiftly adopt the recommendations, stating that this would be transformative for people with diabetes and obesity.

RACP president Professor Jennifer Martin said this was particularly important for easing the “immense amount of pressure” on families, patients and the health system, given the steady increase in T2D and obesity rates across the country.

“The committee has rightly recognised that people living with diabetes often have to contend with very high prices and long waiting times when trying to access vital medical supports that can greatly help with insulin and weight management.”

A joint statement issued by the George Institute for Global Health, Food for Health Alliance and the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance welcomed recommendations such as the levy on sugary beverages, with sweetened drinks representing around 20% of free sugars consumed in the average Australian diet.

“We also support the recommendation to appoint a dedicated resource within the Department of Health and Aged Care to support access to healthy food to all Australian communities to focus on addressing food insecurity, a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes, and improving access to healthy, nutritious food for Australians no matter where they live or what their circumstances,” the public health groups said.

“We look forward to the release of the government’s full response to the review in the coming weeks, and to seeing an implementation plan that supports strong health and wellbeing for all Australians throughout their lives.”

Other recommendations spelled out in the 270-page document include:

  • Increase funding for T1D research and clinical trials.
  • Expedite a review of the Australian Dietary Guidelines, with adequate information for Australians living with diabetes included in the revised version.
  • Increase the number of MBS item numbers for allied health consultations for diabetes educators, dieticians and other providers.
  • Conduct a comprehensive economic analysis on the direct and indirect cost of diabetes.
  • Have a dedicated resource within the Department of Health and Aged Care to support access to healthy food in all communities.
  • Develop a best practice framework to combat unhealthy environments and promote physical activity.
  • Explore national screening programs for all forms of diabetes, but particularly T2D.
  • Run a public health campaign to increase awareness of the early signs of diabetes.
  • Fund and develop education-based obesity screening information and resources.
  • Develop education tools and resources to further support health care staff.

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