Indigenous communities very high risk for diabetes

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders are three times more likely to develop diabetes with an incidence rate 20 years earlier than non-indigenous groups, according to a recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

About 3,300 adults (aged 18 years and over) from across Australia took part in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey. They volunteered blood and/or urine samples, which were tested for a range of chronic diseases and nutrient biomarkers.

The results found that people diagnosed with diabetes also had indicators of other chronic conditions. Around half of those had signs of chronic kidney disease, 65 per cent had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a quarter had high cholesterol – even though only 9 per cent were aware of it.

“The results of this survey are very disturbing,” said Sturt Eastwood, CEO of Diabetes NSW & ACT, urging action to address vulnerable groups living with diabetes, particularly those in remote areas.

“As an organisation we are working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health educators to ensure training and support is available to specifically target these shocking statistics. We can’t afford to ignore the massive health impacts diabetes and pre-diabetes has on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.”

Despite a minor narrowing in the life expectancy gap in recent years, the life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is still around 10 years lower than for other Australians, according to a 2012 Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council report. However, the ABS has found the age standardised death rate for diabetes remains seven times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians compared with other Australians.

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