Risk of diabetes is rising for people in western Sydney


Often referred to as the 'silent disease', many people are unaware they are at risk, or living with type 2 diabetes. Channel 9 covered this story recently on their nightly news program.

Residents have benefited from more than 100,000 pro-active diabetes tests conducted at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals as part of a Western Sydney Diabetes initiative.

Dr Tien-Ming Hng, head, Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Blacktown Hospital, said pro-active testing is done for people who come to emergency departments.

“People who require a blood test also have an HbA1c test to check for diabetes,” said Dr Hng.

An HbA1c blood test is used to diagnose and manage diabetes. A result equal to or above 6.5 percent signals the possibility of diabetes.

Dr Hng said results from the testing revealed nearly half (48 per cent) of people tested had high blood sugar levels.

“Of the 100,000 tests conducted, 30.5 percent, or 30,533 tests, revealed a result consistent with pre-diabetes, and 17.4 per cent, or 17,435 tests, revealed a result consistent with diabetes (type 1 or type 2),” said Dr Hng.

Twenty-eight-year-old Mahmoud Elashwal from Schofield, is one such resident who has benefited from the proactive testing.

 He got more than he bargained for when he presented at Blacktown Hospital’s emergency department, receiving a double diagnosis.

 “I came to the hospital after I had a car accident,” said Mr Elashwal.

 But he wasn’t prepared for what he heard next.

 “I was shocked when the doctors told me I had pre-diabetes,” he said. 

 “I didn’t know much about diabetes before this and I wasn’t expecting to hear that I had diabetes.”

 Processing the information, Mr Elashwal realised this news may have been a blessing in disguise.

 Once discharged, Mr Elashwal walked out of hospital with a new lease on life.

 He realised he had to do something to change his life if he wanted to beat his chance of getting type 2 diabetes.

 “Over the last few weeks I changed what I eat and I now walk one hour every day,” said Mr Elashwal.

 “I have now lost eight kilograms and I’m determined to improve my health so I don’t get diabetes.

 “I’m thankful for the doctors who tested me for diabetes, because now I can get on top of it and improve my life.”

Professor Glen Maberly, head of Western Sydney Diabetes, said we knew the diabetes problem in western Sydney was serious, but the proactive detection program revealed it’s much worse than first thought.

 “The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in western Sydney is growing at about 0.5 per cent each year, with 22 percent of patients in our hospitals identified as having diabetes,” said Prof Maberly.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which a person becomes resistant to insulin or their pancreas is no longer able to produce enough insulin to counteract the food eaten.

The signs and symptoms are gradual and often people can be living with the condition for years without knowing it. Late diagnosis of diabetes results in a greater chance of developing diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease, heart disease and blindness. 

 “The good news is that it’s possible to beat type 2 diabetes by making changes to your diet and lifestyle,” said Prof Maberly.

 “Early detection and a sustained weight loss of 2-4 kg are key to boosting your chance of beating diabetes.

 “Daily exercise and a healthy diet low in processed foods, low in fat and sugar and full of fresh fruits and vegetables, will help prevent type 2 diabetes.”

 Thank you to reporter Gaby Rogers and cameraman Bowie from National Nine News (both pictured at top with patient, Mahmoud Elashwal) for visiting Blacktown Hospital and helping to raise awareness of type 2 diabetes. 

Click here to watch the news report. 

PHN Western Sydney PwC Diabetes NSW NSW Health