Australian government concerned about cost of diabetes

by Mark Benson on November 3, 2012

Australian government concerned about cost of diabetes

In a perfect mirror image of concerns regarding the UK NHS system a former premier of the state of Victoria in Australia, John Brumby, has joined the growing debate with regards to diabetes. He is just one of many current and previous politicians who are growing ever more concerned about the growing cost of treating diabetes and the fact that instances of diabetes across Australia continue to rise at an alarming rate.

Those who underestimate the potential impact upon the UK NHS systems may well have their eyes opened because the same argument is now sweeping through the Australian Parliament. This is something which needs tackled as soon as possible because it does have the potential to impact both state and national funding across Australia in so many different ways.

Diabetes in Australia

It seems that diabetes knows no boundaries with official estimates suggesting that up to 3 million people under the age of 25 will have developed type II diabetes by 2025. When you also take into account that a recent census across Melbourne suggest that at this point in time a phenomenal one in three people aged over 50 have developed type II diabetes, this is a situation which will get very much worse before it gets better.

Thankfully the Australian authorities have been very proactive in many areas of the economy and everyday life and it seems as though they do have a handle upon the growing problem of diabetes. However, we will now take a look at the underlying problems which may lay ahead for the Australian government and the Australian population.

The financial cost of diabetes

In some ways it is very difficult to put an exact figure on the cost of diabetes because we have the cost of treatment, the cost to the economy and many other elements of everyday life. Official estimates, which are likely to err on the side of caution if anything, suggest that the cost of diabetes to the Australian population, economy and government is currently around AU$6 billion per annum. This is a massive cost to Australia and unfortunately with instances of diabetes set to increase in number in the foreseeable future this is a figure which will only move north.

The Australian healthcare system is slightly different to that in the UK and is dominated by the “Medicare system” which effectively brings together those who can afford financial input into the healthcare system and those who cannot. Indeed so important is the Medicare system that John Brumby suggested that diabetes could be “to Medicare what the iceberg was to the Titanic”. The use of such phrases is obviously going to grab the headlines across the Australian media and while some may accuse the former politician of scaremongering it will certainly get many people thinking about the situation.

Being realistic

It is very easy to sit back and suggest that a massive injection of financial support and practical support from the Australian government could bring to an end the ever increasing number of diabetics across the country. It is very easy to throw money into this bottomless pit and hope for the best in the short, medium and longer term. However, the reality is very different because diabetes is strongly linked to obesity which is a major problem across the developed and the developing world.

Any investment at this moment in time would take a significant period to filter through the system and impact upon future diabetic numbers. We are now in a situation where enormous investment is required as soon as possible with regards to treatment, screening and the wider education of the Australian population. Diabetes, especially diabetes type II, is a situation which can be avoided, is not wholly hereditary but the current lifestyle enjoyed by many people around the world is encouraging growth in the number of sufferers.

As we touched on above, the Australian government appears to have grasped the severity of the situation and if history is anything to go by then they are likely to be more proactive in the future than reactive. Time and time again the Australian political system has come together on issues such as the economy, and hopefully diabetes, to put in place long-term plans which were backed by all political parties. Every dollar invested today will yield a return in the medium to longer term although the short-term benefits may not be as visible as politicians may hope.

Wake up and smell the coffee

Time and time again we have seen official warnings from the likes of the World Health Organisation (WHO) with regards to the threat of diabetes across the world. We have seen diabetic numbers increase dramatically across the globe, we see deaths attributable to diabetes continue to rise but in many ways the wider population of the world are not fully aware of the facts or perhaps not grasping the facts as they should.

Now is certainly the time to wake up and smell the coffee with regards to diabetes and the impact it will have upon the Australian population, the Australian economy, Australian taxes, Australian family life and the future of the country. It would be foolish to underestimate the damage which diabetes could and has been doing to the worldwide population for some time now.

Conclusion

The fact that the government appears to have woken up to the threat of diabetes in Australia, with various comments attributable to past and current politicians, is certainly a step in the right direction. Estimates that the financial cost of diabetes is around AU$6 billion per annum should shock many people but they should be even more shocked by the fact this is set to grow in the short, medium and potentially longer term. Where will the Australian government find this level of funding?

Estimates that there are around 3 million diabetics under the age of 25 in Australia and perhaps more worrying, one in three people aged over 50 in the Melbourne district have developed type II diabetes, are certainly a very strong wake-up call to the authorities. Historically the Australian government has been more proactive than reactive and we can only hope that this historic trend continues with regards to the matter of diabetes.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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