Public health

Professors speak out over diabetes strategy frustrations


Months have passed since the release of the Australian National Diabetes Strategy 2016-2020 and there is still no sign of impending implementation.

The lack of action prompted 2015 Kellion Award winner Professor Stephen Colagiuri and member of the National Diabetes Strategy Advisory Group to jointly pen a comment in the Sydney Morning Herald last week calling for a united and major effort to address Australia’s diabetes epidemic.

“If we are serious about addressing the biggest epidemic of a chronic disease in this country, we need to inject the same urgency as was applied to HIV/AIDS and emerging communicable diseases,” they wrote.

Their position is not new. When accepting his award at the ADS/ADEA conference seven months ago, Professor Colagiuri said he was optimistic about the forthcoming strategy, which was still in draft form, but warned it must come with a clear implementation plan.

Speaking to the limbic this week, he said he had been motivated to publish the comment out of a sense of frustration that the new strategy could be heading down the same path as other diabetes strategies that have gone before it without success.

“A lot of work goes into writing these strategies and not much goes into the implementation,” he said.

He said that while it appeared there were some discussions taking place within the government about how to roll out the strategy, nothing was clear and there had been no effort to engage with diabetes experts.

“We are determined to try and do whatever we can to ensure that this doesn’t end up on the shelf with nothing happening to it,” he told the limbic.

Professor Colagiuri said the looming early Federal Budget and the election that is tipped to follow created an opportunity to increase the pressure on the government to commit to a coordinated and detailed implementation plan that includes all stakeholders.

And the government should remember that diabetes affects some five million Australians, including 1.5 million people with the disease, their carers and another 2.5 million people with pre-diabetes. The majority of these are voters.

“It may be a good opportunity for some budget or pre-election commitments,” Professor Colagiuri said.

He said diabetes experts really wanted to engage with the government to discuss potential funding models, as he believes upfront spending doesn’t need to be exorbitant and it may be possible to work within existing as well as new frameworks.

“We understand funding constraints,” he said. “We’re not going to the government, cap in hand, for a large amount of money. We want it to be workable and sustainable but we have to get started.”

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