National Diabetes Week – Young people with diabetes worse off in rural areas

Jul 12 2012

In National Diabetes Week, Newcastle researchers are leading the charge to improve services for young people living with diabetes in rural areas to bring them up to par with their city cousins. 

“Data indicates that young people with diabetes in cities are far better off than their rural counterparts for access, service and health outcomes; those outside Sydney or Newcastle can expect to have significantly greater reduced life expectancy,” University of Newcastle Conjoint Professor of Nursing, Lin Perry* said.

Professor Perry is leading the Youth Outreach for Diabetes (YOuR) project, which aims to evaluate and develop a new model of care for non-metropolitan young people.

“Young people with diabetes in rural areas have less than half the routine contact with preventative care services than their Sydney and, to a lesser extent, Newcastle counterparts,” she said.

“Rural patients with diabetes are hospitalised more than twice as often and up to 40 per cent of young people with type 1 diabetes transitioning from paediatric to adult care outside a capital city are ‘lost’ from specialist care.”

Researchers have completed a survey of essential services and are consulting with stakeholders to develop a new model of care that will be implemented in the Hunter New England Local Health District over the next three years.

The new model will help transition young people with diabetes in regional and rural Hunter New England to a point where they can confidently self-manage their illness. Strategies include using social media and peer support, creating a single point of contact and help line, plus establishing adult care networks to encourage young people to routinely monitor their condition.

“It is important that all young patients have access and make use of preventative services to ensure they develop and maintain good diabetic management skills, particularly at the critical time when they become adults and have to manage more of their own care,” she said.

“Research shows prevention and good management is the best way to avoid hospital admissions and the development of secondary health problems that are linked to diabetes including heart attacks, stroke, blindness, amputations, kidney failure and premature death.” 

Good control of diabetes in young adulthood greatly reduces the risk of later developing diabetes-related eye disease by 76 per cent, kidney disease by 50 per cent, nerve damage by 60 per cent and any heart disease by 42 per cent.

The project is a collaboration between the University, Hunter New England Local Health District and the Australian Diabetes Council.

*Professor Lin Perry is a Conjoint Professor in the University of Newcastle Priority Research Centre for Gender, Health and Ageing. She conducts research in collaboration with the HMRI Public Health Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

Fast Facts**

  • Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease.
  • Around 1.7 million Australians currently live with diabetes and a further 275 Australians develop diabetes every day.
  • Diabetes is the sixth highest cause of death by disease in Australia.
  • Two million Australians have pre-diabetes and are at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • By 2031 it is estimated 3.3 million Australians will have Type 2 diabetes.
  • Almost 60 per cent of Type 2 diabetes cases are preventable through sustained lifestyle change, together with healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • National Diabetes Week is run by Diabetes Australia from July 8-14.

**Source: Diabetes Australia