Diabetes a social issue

Leading English diabetes researcher Prof Nick Wareham. Photo Peter McIntosh
Leading English diabetes researcher Prof Nick Wareham. Photo Peter McIntosh
Bold moves from Government are needed if New Zealand is to counter rising obesity, and a diabetes epidemic which could eventually overwhelm and "bankrupt'' the country's public health system.

That comment came yesterday from a leading British diabetes researcher, Prof Nick Wareham, who is director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine.

Prof Wareham said diabetes and obesity partly reflected, and magnified social inequality.

These problems would not be solved just by asking individuals to change their lives, or by blaming people.

There was scope for individual medical care, but it was a mistake to seek to simply "medicalise'' type 2 diabetes-"it's not going to work''.

This was because these problems reflected a wider social and urban "environment'', which should be addressed, and could not be improved simply on a patient-by-patient basis.

Diabetes care in England and Wales already cost 10% of the National Health System budget, and rising diabetes and obesity rates in New Zealand could have "serious economic impact'' on our healthcare system.

The English Government is introducing forms of sugar tax, affecting various sugary drinks, which take effect early this year.

The New Zealand Government should consider introducing its own taxes on sugary drinks, and taking other public health measures.

Urban resdesign, including safe cycle lanes, would also help by encouraging people to walk or cycle at least part of the way to work, he said.

Prof Wareham will also speak in Dunedin today, as part of public lecture presentations co-hosted by the University of Otago's Edgar Diabetes & Obesity Research Centre.

After Health Minister Dr David Clark gives the opening address, researcher Prof Jeff Reading, of Canada, will speak.

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