Diabetes day criticism

Taking part in an exercise session on World Diabetes Day yesterday are (from left) Lupe Hakaumotu, Edward Hakaumotu (16) and Dilisa Taungapeau, all of Dunedin. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Taking part in an exercise session on World Diabetes Day yesterday are (from left) Lupe Hakaumotu, Edward Hakaumotu (16) and Dilisa Taungapeau, all of Dunedin. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The Government is more interested in Prince Charles' visit than in finding ways to combat the "major epidemic" of diabetes, nutrition and diabetes expert Prof Jim Mann says.

Prof Mann, who recently stepped down as chairman of a Ministry of Health diabetes advisory group in frustration at the lack of action on the disease, said he was "substantially disillusioned" no National MP attended World Diabetes Day at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday.

He showed the forum "scary" University of Otago research, soon to be published, showing disease rates, which for the first time included pre-diabetes.

In the 55-64 age group, the rate of all forms of the disease (diagnosed, undiagnosed and pre-diabetic) was nearly 50%.

"If that isn't scary, I don't know what is scary," he said.

Public health programmes were needed to prevent pre-diabetics developing the disease, which was not where the Government had decided to focus, he said.

Prince Charles would have understood had National MPs not attended activities around the Royal visit to free up an MP to attend the forum, which was the only one of its kind in New Zealand, he said.

Prof Mann also took a swipe at the Southern District Health Board for serving unhealthy food at an unrelated workshop that happened to be running at the same time.

People should write to the board complaining about the food it was serving, he said.

This was brought to the forum's attention by type 2 diabetic Errol Sharp, who said he initially went to the wrong floor, and saw tables "groaning" with raspberry slice for morning tea.

This was an "absolute disgrace", Prof Mann said, as the unavailability of healthy food was partly responsible for the diabetes epidemic.

Dunedin National list MP and chief whip Michael Woodhouse said Parliament was sitting, and requests for leave had to be carefully considered to ensure enough MPs were present to complete the day's business.

Prof Mann, who he suspected did not understand the workings of government, needed to "calm down", Mr Woodhouse said.

"Would we say to Prince Charles: 'I'm sorry, these people won't be coming because somebody else has to go to a diabetes conference?"'

As whip, he granted leave for two MPs to attend Prince Charles-related activities.

No New Zealand government had done as much for diabetes as the present one, he said.

The only politician to attend the Dunedin forum was Labour MP and health spokeswoman Maryan Street.

She told the Otago Daily Times the lack of representation from National was an "appalling no-show".

The Government "dismantled" Labour's healthy eating and exercise reforms, including ones that cost nothing.

Diabetes New Zealand president Chris Baty said New Zealand was seeing "astounding" increases in diagnosed diabetes of up to 10% annually. The Government must show leadership, diabetics must be more vocal and the community at large needed to be educated, she said.




The taste of sweetness

Caz wonders why previous generations didn't have masses of diabetics because we ate "sickly sweet puddings every night."  We did indeed have puddings, but if Caz looks at the recipes for puddings, and for biscuits and cakes, and compares them with today's recipes she will find that people's perception of sweetness has ratcheted up through the years since WW2 when sugar was rationed.  The proportion of sugar to flour in ordinary cakes and biscuits is now twice as high as it used to be when I learned to bake as a child at  home.  Puddings were often "milk puddings" - rice, tapioca, junket, sago.

Even steamed pud with golden syrup was rather sickly because of the syrup that ran down the sides when it was turned out of the bowl in which it had been cooked, but the batter from which is was made was plain by today's standards.  And after dinner the dishes had to be washed by hand, using people-energy rather than a dishwashing machine, coal and firewood had to be ready for next day.  

We had an electric range but we also had a destructor with wetback for hot water, and were a bit ahead of the times with a wood-burner instead of an open fire to heat the sitting room in the evening.  So it's not just about what people eat, it is also about how much they burn up in the course of normal activities.  Today many people have to deliberately make a choice to exercise, whereas in the past being active at paid work and at home was a necessity for most families, children included.

What's in our food today?

I can't understand why previous generations didn't have an astounding number of people with diabetes when they ate meat cooked in dripping,  home baking every day and sickly sweet puddings every night.

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