Professor Jim Mann.
A Dunedin professor who is New Zealand's leading diabetes
researcher has quit as chairman of a Ministry of Health
advisory group and criticised the Government for its lack of
action on the disease.
University of Otago Professor Jim Mann has spent the last 40
years of his life researching prevention strategies for
He will be releasing figures next week at a World Diabetes
Day seminar at Forsyth Barr Stadium that show the number of
people on the verge of getting diabetes in New Zealand is
close to or more than the 300,000 who already have it.
"It is just going to become more astronomical and in terms of
prevention we do nothing."
He has stood down as chairman of the Ministry of Health
Expert Advisory Group on Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
in the hope that someone else will have more luck convincing
"I have chaired these committees since they first started,
but I have now decided we should see if other people would be
"It is almost like you are sitting here looking at this
disaster about to happen and not acting. I have been saying
this for years and the minister [of health Tony Ryall] hates
me," Prof Mann said.
The Government was not even sending a representative to a
panel discussion at the event next Wednesday because
Parliament is sitting at the same time, he said.
Government whip and Dunedin-based list MP Michael Woodhouse
said no government had done more for diabetes than this one.
"We have made it a high priority. Cardiovascular disease and
diabetes is one of our six main health priorities.
"It would be disappointing if someone with the reputation
that Professor Mann has judges the Government's actions on
whether or not the Government sends someone to this
Prof Mann had been told that all National MPs were tied up on
select committees on that particular day, he said.
"It had nothing to do with being too busy, it had nothing to
do with not caring enough as Jim infers in his comments.
Parliament is sitting, that's what we do. I don't have anyone
to give on Wednesday."
In a speech to the National Diabetes Nurse Specialist
symposium six weeks ago, Mr Ryall said the Government had
introduced specialist diabetes nurses for each district
health board and introduced a "Get Checked" programme.
Last year doctors prescribed 32,000 people with "green
prescriptions" to help them get more active and it had
introduced "food-free advertising zones" during popular
children's television viewing times.
The Prime Minister's chief science adviser Peter Gluckman has
also set out a diabetes prevention programme targeting
pregnant mothers because there was evidence that obesity
habits formed pre-birth.
"There is an opportunity to deliver our programmes in a
different way and leverage other funding sources and
resources to deliver nutrition advice and education support
to mothers and newborns," Mr Ryall said.
Prof Mann said reducing heart disease and diabetes later in
life by giving good maternal nutrition was "probably right",
but still unproven.
"What about the rest of us?
"If you just concentrate on pregnancy and people that are not
yet born you are writing everybody else off.
"Absolutely dumb policy but yet, that is what the Government
has chosen to do," he said.
Exercise prescriptions were not enough and the Government
needed "massive programmes" to deal with it, he said.