Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (12:09): In the course of my election campaign and then becoming an MP I undertook to make sure that I kept in regular contact with GPs in my area just to get a sense of the health issues that affect the Chifley electorate. They told me that the three biggest issues that affected people in our area and concerned them the most were cardiovascular disease, the number of young people presenting with signs of obesity and diabetes. For some of these—for example, obesity—they are trying to encourage getting young kids moving again. I am hoping to work on something on cardiovascular disease in the electorate in the coming year.
But today I want to talk about something we are dealing with that has a big focus—and that is diabetes. It threatens the life expectancy of many in the Chifley electorate. Also, if you look at it from another perspective, it has cost us dearly trying to deal with this issue over the course of time. The Blacktown local government area, in which the Chifley and Greenway electorates reside, has the highest rate of diabetes in New South Wales, if not Australia. It is not something that we can hold our heads high about. According to data collated by the Public Health Information Development Unit based at Adelaide University, there were 7,996 people with type 2 diabetes in Blacktown in 2007-08. Compare these figures with those from neighbouring local government areas in the same time period and the contrast is quite stark—Parramatta was 4,960 and Penrith was 4,928.
Of course, we must be careful about relying too heavily on these figures, as there is a very high rate of underreporting of diabetes across the country as well as high rates of people who are simply unaware that they even have diabetes. Again going back to 2007-08, over 300,000 people in New South Wales reported they had diabetes according to the Diabetes prevalence in Australia report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. This represented over 34 per cent of all cases of diabetes diagnosed in Australia at the time. In 2009-10, the Western Sydney Local Health District reported there were 2,302 hospitalisations due to diabetes and its complications. This represented a rate of 323 per 100,000 people. Over time, diabetes hospitalisations have been rising, which is likely to reflect the increasing prevalence of the disease as well as the ageing of the population.
The cost of treating diabetes in 2004-05 was just under $1 billion, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, about 1.9 per cent of all health expenditure at the time, and it would no doubt be considerably higher today. I have seen one prediction that suggests that as many as 30 per cent of western Sydney residents aged over 25 could be diabetic.
Given this is such an important health issue in Chifley, based on some of the comments I raised earlier, I hosted the first two in a series of diabetes forums across the electorate. At least 50 people accepted my invitation to attend each of these two forums in Blacktown and Marayong last Tuesday. The response for the remaining forums which will be held in December in Mount Druitt and Plumpton have already surpassed these. In staging these forums, I partnered with Kildare Road Medical Centre in Blacktown, WentWest, which is the Western Sydney Medicare Local, and the Australian Diabetes Council. The forums are focused on understanding the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes and what people can do to prevent and reduce their risk of diabetes. They also devote time to helping those living with diabetes manage their condition through diet and lifestyle choices.
Attendees had the benefit of hearing from a range of practitioners, including Dr Kevin Bullen, the medical director at Kildare Road Medical Centre, who explained the types of diabetes, causes and symptoms. We had dietician Kate Gudorf explain the benefits of healthy eating and weight management in preventing and living with diabetes. She also discussed the tricky topic of alcohol and its relationship to diabetes and explored typical daily meal plans. Exercise physiologist Andrew Zorzit explored the connection between physical activity and healthy weight and demonstrated some easy exercises that keep people active. And the Kildare Road Medical Centre Diabetes Clinic’s registered nurse, Veronica Dingle, conducted a diabetes risk assessment and explained the range of services the clinic can provide. I would like to thank all those who helped stage this valuable series of forums: Peter Rushton, in particular, the CEO; Nicola Stokes from the Australian Diabetes Council; and everyone who presented on the day.