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It amazes me, with the numbers going up faster than my cholesterol, i don’t see any major movement for education and awareness in diabetes. There is nothing global, just a few agencies that are battling for grants and big companies making billions. When we all agree to work together and not worry about what we call someone with diabetes, but ban together as a powerful force we can get something done. 

Prof Jonathan Shaw’s 12-year study of 11,000 Australians calculates 269 adults develop diabetes every day.

There are about 10,000 people living with diabetes in the Far North.

The Diabetes Queensland figures also showed there were about 2500 people in the electorate of Mulgrave living with diabetes, with rates of type 2 jumping by 43 per cent in the past four years.

There has been a 165 per cent increase of diabetes in Yarrabah and 36 per cent in Cairns between 2007 and 2010.

More than 54 per cent of Cairns residents are overweight or obese, costing the region about $35.6 million annually, with the figure forecast to rise to $92.7 million unless urgent action is taken, according research released earlier this year.

Overall, Queensland had the highest rate of obesity in the country and Australia is one of the fattest nations in the world. Most health professionals believe the rate of obesity and diabetes is reaching crisis levels.

“We need changes to occupational health and safety regulations so it is not allowed for people to sit for two hours at a time without a break,” Prof Shaw said.

“I think everything should be on the table taxation levers, town planning, even the layout of office spaces needs to be reconsidered to tackle the growing personal and community impact of chronic disease,” he says.

Prof Shaw from the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute ran the 12-year Aus-Diab study of 11,000 Australians which has found young people aged 25-34 are gaining more weight than any other age group.

Prof Shaw also advocated a tax on junk food, subsidies for healthy foods, standing desks in workplaces and stairs more accessible to encourage more physical activity.

A rule banning sitting for more than two hours might not go down well with employers but they should “look on it as a long-term investment in their employees”, he said.

Professor of Public health at the Cairns campus of James Cook University Robyn McDermott said the move could well be worth a try.

“It may or may not be easy to enforce, but certainly it could be examined in terms of occupational health and safety,” she said.

The problem was not just at work but during leisure time, or at school.

“We are living sedentary lives. We need to combine all aspects of life to get moving,” she said.

Since the recent Cairns statistics, Prof McDermott said it was difficult to monitor the overall improvement in diabetes rates, given the “state of change” of our health services.

But anecdotally there were encouraging signs that the Cairns region was moving towards healthier lifestyles.

She said everyone needed to get behind issues such as safer cycling options and community events which encouraged walking or any physical exercise.

Professor Shaw’s study has also found people over-estimated the amount of exercise they thought they were doing by 50 per cent.

People self-reported they spent 200 minutes a day sitting but an electronic device recorded they spent an average 500 minutes a day sitting.

The incidence of diabetes is five times higher in people who are obese and two times higher in those who are overweight.

Over the 12-year study the average gain in waist circumference among participants was 5.3cm and was greater in women than in men.

“The trend for greater weight gain among people aged 25-34 is very concerning and suggests Australia still does not recognise the serious health risks associated with being overweight or obese,” he said.

“The health and wellbeing of a whole generation of Australians is being compromised by a lifestyle rich in energy dense foods and low on physical activity,” he said.

The study also founddepression was 65 per cent higher in people with diabetes and they showed double the rate of cognitive impairment than those without diabetes.

Living in the most disadvantaged areas doubled the risk.

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