Tuesday 31 May 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Diabetes - Nutrition for Life


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, a browse of diabetes websites makes for pretty depressing reading.  It is the disease of the twenty-first century and it is increasing rapidly.

A few facts about diabetes.  It is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.  It is the leading cause of kidney failure, increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to four times, is the major cause of limb amputations, and affects mental health as well as physical health.  Depression, anxiety and distress occur in more than 30 per cent of all people with diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10 per cent of all diabetes and is increasing.  Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85 per cent of all diabetes and is increasing, too.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic.  The combination of massive changes to diet and food supply, combined with massive changes in physical activity to more sedentary work and less activity, means that most populations are seeing more type 2 diabetes.

Health authorities are making a major effort to combat the disease but so are others, including Launceston orthopaedic surgeon Gary Fettke .  I have spoken about Gary Fettke in the Chamber before, particularly about his campaign to persuade us to reduce our consumption of sugar.  How could you ever forget his No Fructose website?  Dr Fettke says that most chronic disease, including diabetes, is related to lifestyle and particularly to nutrition.  He says we take greater care of what fuel we put in our car than what we put in our bodies.  Most modern diseases, he says, are preventable and funding for preventive medical management is a significant return on investment rather than treating the complications of the disease.

You might ask why an orthopaedic surgeon is so interested in preventing diabetes.  Dr Fettke spends much of his time amputating toes and feet of those with diabetes.  He says the rapid increase in diabetes foot cases and amputations reflects the health status of Tasmania, which has the second worst rate of diabetes after the Northern Territory.

So what to do?  Well, Dr Fettke has established Nutrition for Life in Tasmania.  The first centre is in Launceston's High Street and it comprises accredited practising dieticians and nutritionists as well as a diabetes nurse educator.  It provides an all-round support network that includes social meetings, media, drop-in meetings and walking groups.  I point out that the Hobart branch opened this year.

The Nutrition for Life team make a significant contribution to the community with, amongst other opportunities, the annual Fairsy's Fat Busters that works with the commercial radio station LAFM and other local community groups, to lead several local people each year to better health.  It has been an enormous success over the past four years, and in particular with raising awareness of the health issues associated with too much sugar and processed food in the diet.  One of the success stories is former MHA Tony Benneworth.  He has been featured recently on the Sunday program on Channel 7,  He has turned around his type 2 diabetes, bringing his weight down and getting off medication and getting on a launch and cruising around south‑east Asia.

The Nutrition for Life Team remain involved in public lectures and community education projects and those lectures are here in Tasmania, nationally and internationally and, by the way, all of this is done gratis.  Nutrition for Life provides outreach services directly around Tasmania and Australia via Skype.  I believe it deserves government support and financial help as part of the preventive health scheme.