Diabetes 'tsunami' predicted

At least one in 10 Kiwi adults will have type 2 diabetes within 20 years in a "tsunami" of disease which could bankrupt the country, an expert says.

A Ministry of Health report, Diabetes Policy Model, reveals that 10 per cent of the adult population will have type 2 diabetes by 2028 and nearly half a million people by 2036.

Diabetes New Zealand national president Chris Baty said that number was conservative as cases were already higher than projections and increasing by 8 per cent a year.

"It's almost of tsunami proportions. This is enormous," she said.

Costs associated with the disease could bankrupt the country if nothing was done to prevent people getting it.

The cost of treating a diabetic in hospital with complications was four times more a day than the cost of a regular hospital bed. Diabetic patients often stayed for longer, she said.

Complications of diabetes include heart, gums and kidney disease. It is the leading cause of amputations and blindness in New Zealand.

Diabetes was "killing the country" because of the cost of treating patients and because when they were blind or missing a limb they could often no longer work.

There was also a small but "alarmingly growing" group of children developing the disease.

Up to two-thirds of cases were preventable if people made lifestyle changes by eating healthily and doing more exercise.

PricewaterhouseCoopers economist Suzanne Snively said 10 years ago the government spent 3 or 4 per cent of the health budget on diabetes treatment.

That would rise to 15 per cent by 2021 if trends continued.

She calculated that an extra $60 million invested annually in prevention of type 2 diabetes would save up to $1 billion a year in treatment costs from 2021 onwards.

Clinical endocrinologist and Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokeswoman Dr Robyn Toomath said a recent United States study predicted that one-third of all American children born today would develop diabetes during their lives.

New Zealand also had rapidly rising obesity rates which were driving the trend.

"A phenomenally high percentage of my adult patients have diabetes," she said.

"It's become so prevalent within the hospital inpatient population that it's almost a given that if someone comes in over a certain age they will have type 2 diabetes as part of the package."

Canterbury Diabetes Team chairwoman Lynne Taylor said funding was already tight to treat patients so any increase in numbers would need to be accompanied by more resources and a greater workforce.

While high rates of diabetes amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders were well-known, she was seeing increasing numbers of Asian people with the disease.

The Press