New figures have heightened fears that diabetes rates are far worse in Sydney's west than previous modelling has indicated. In less than one year's targeted testing at a single hospital, almost 12,000 people have been identified as having diabetes or being at risk of risk of diabetes. Of the 26,000 people tested at Blacktown Hospital to the end of May, 17% had diabetes and 28% were identified as high risk of contracting the disease.
Professor Glen Maberly at Blacktown Emergency Department.
The alarming new figures drawn from the program in the hospital’s emergency department are likely to swell significantly when targeted testing begins later this year at Westmead Hospital, one of Australia’s largest.
Professor Glen Maberly, director Western Sydney Diabetes, said the Blacktown Hospital results should recast thinking about diabetes as the program is a national leader.
“If data emerging from this targeted testing holds consistent across the community, diabetes is a far bigger problem than anybody has anticipated,” Prof Maberly said.
“Anybody who visits their GP should ask that they are screened for diabetes as early detection can help prevent onset of the disease.”
Prof Maberly said people identified through the testing at Blacktown Hospital are followed up by email or phone call to alert them to their condition.
Western Sydney Diabetes, a partnership between Western Sydney Local Health District, Western Sydney Primary Health Network and Diabetes NSW & ACT, is building a campaign of diabetes screening in hospital EDs with follow up in general practice.
Western Sydney Diabetes is also working to expand diabetes testing in GP practices in Blacktown in partnership with the Blacktown Medical Practitioners Association.
“The screening currently taking place through the Blacktown Hospital ED is working hand in hand with local GPs to see diabetes detected and interventions occur earlier,” chief executive officer Western Sydney Primary Health Network Walter Kmet said.
“Our network is committed to increased screening rates for diabetes across western Sydney, particularly through the efforts of the Western Sydney Diabetes initiative.”
As National Diabetes Week (9-15 July) calls attention to diabetes crisis, the Chair of the Blacktown Medical Practitioners Association Dr Prabha Chandra backed calls for a united front between the public and private health sectors.
“We are delighted a number of GP members are early adopters of testing,” Dr Prabha said.
“The Association will be calling on all members to support testing for diabetes through HbA1c testing in September.”
The theme of National Diabetes Week is detecting undetected diabetes.