Australians continue to disregard the impact diabetes and obesity will have on their future health, despite the number of Australians affected by both conditions reaching epidemic proportions, according to one of the largest studies assessing community attitudes to health, released today by The Australian Medicines Industry.
The report, Facing the Health of Australians, paints a national picture of community opinions on health and major disease. It shows Australians are largely indifferent towards diabetes and major associated risk factor obesity. Less than 10% rate diabetes as a future health concern for themselves and their children (6.8% and 6.3% respectively), and even fewer cite obesity (5.6%) as an issue of concern for themselves, despite an alarming 42% admitting to leading sedentary lifestyles and those with children ranking lack of healthy diet among their greatest worries for their children, second only to accident or injury.
According to Dr Brendan Shaw, spokesman for The Australian Medicines Industry, the findings spotlight an alarming disconnect between the attitudes of Australians towards one of the leading chronic health conditions of our time and the clinical reality.
“Facing the Health of Australians was undertaken to find out what concerns Australians most about their health,” Dr Shaw said. “The Australian Medicines Industry is committed to supporting Australia’s health, but it was quite alarming to find that potentially life-threatening diseases like diabetes simply didn’t register.
“There is a clear disconnect between our views on health, particularly in relation to weight and the implications of that in regard to serious and potentially life-threatening disease,” he added.
“We’re all aware of the healthy eating, adequate exercise message, but the long-term consequences of obesity are still little understood in the community. Diabetes, a potentially deadly disease is just the start. We’re fortunate that treatments are available to help manage diabetes, but the reality is that it is still a killer disease. In fact, a staggering 65% of all cardiovascular deaths occur in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes and part of our role must be to help in the prevention of disease, not just provide solutions to the chronic disease deluge.”
The Facing the Health of Australians report revealed further Aussie apathy; only 7.4% of Australian parents were concerned about their own children being overweight or obese. Also, while one in four parents cited obesity as the greatest health fear facing their children’s generation, the link between obesity and diabetes still fails to register despite the fact that there is a growing number of Australian children and adolescents living with diabetes.3
Commenting on theFacing the Health of Australians findings, Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson says the diabetes epidemic is a huge challenge for Australia; a challenge that faces governments and community leaders as well as individuals and families, with the consequences of the type 2 diabetes epidemic likely to cripple our health system and significantly impact workforce productivity.
“Australian governments, communities and families need to face the reality with which we are confronted. We have an epidemic of type 2 diabetes. The seriousness of diabetes is underestimated. The complications including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, amputations and more mean that diabetes will become the number one cause of disease burden in Australia in the next few years. The children of today could be the first generation in decades to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents,” said Professor Johnson.
“Over 1 million Australians have diagnosed diabetes and 2-3 million adults have prediabetes and are at high risk for type 2 diabetes. Encouragingly, we know we can prevent type 2 diabetes in up to 60% of this high risk group. Individuals need to assess their risk and take steps to help prevent type 2 diabetes while Governments need to invest in a National Diabetes Prevention Program,” said Professor Johnson.