Research shows huge difference in diabetes rates across Auckland suburbs

A woman injects herself with insulin during a visit to the Manukau SuperClinic.

A woman injects herself with insulin during a visit to the Manukau SuperClinic.

People living in South Auckland are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes than those who live across the Harbour Bridge.

Researchers from the University of Auckland made the finding in a new study which looked at diabetes distribution across electoral districts in the city.

The highest rate of the disease was 17.3 per cent in the Mangere electorate and the lowest was 3.2 per cent in the North Shore electorate, just 25km away.

The difference persisted even when adjusting for age, gender and ethnicity.

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Study leader Daniel Exeter said it was the first time diabetes had been examined by electorate.

Those with the greatest risk of the disease fell within the boundaries of the Counties Manukau District Health Board.

The study analysed data from 63,000 people, aged over 30, who were diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in 2011.

Diabetes prevalence in Auckland was similar to the national average of 8.5 per cent.

Males had a higher rate of diabetes than females, while 15.8 per cent of Pacific people, 10.3 per cent of Maori and 6.3 per cent of New Zealand Europeans had the disease.

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"These inequities across the Auckland region are stark reminders that even in one relatively small metropolitan area, there can be huge variations in rates of key health conditions," Exeter said.

"The reasons behind this are complex and probably due to many factors, but the social determinants of health that begin even before birth are increasingly involved."

Factors such as maternal deprivation in pregnancy, the local food environment, stress and access to health care also contributed.

The use of electorates to illustrate the issue could be presented to politicians, who should be representing their constituents in seeking better health outcomes, Exeter said.

It had been a shock to see such a disparity between electorates so close together and was unacceptable in a country like New Zealand, he said.

"A strength of the study is that it prompts us to stop and say 'hang on, we have a universal public health system, is it acceptable that there's this huge difference in diabetes rates just 25km apart?'

"For me, as a resident in Auckland who drives from one side of the city to the other I find it a travesty that Auckland, as one of the most liveable cities in the world, can have such huge disparities in health."

Diabetes New Zealand chief executive Steve Crew said one in four New Zealanders were pre-diabetic and an estimated 40 people a day were diagnosed with diabetes.

The problem was a huge one for the health system, he said.

The study's results were not surprising, as Asian, Maori and Pacific people all had higher rates of diabetes.

But there were several factors at play, such as being able to afford health care.

Diabetes was often picked up earlier in patients who were able to afford to visit the doctor for a check-up.

A tax on sugary drinks and processed sugar would help, while the placement of fast food outlets should also be more regulated, Crew said.

"In Auckland there are certain parts [where fast food outlets] seem to be congregated more than others.

"It's a fine line between having a nanny state, if you want to go out and have a burger you can, but it's about having these processes in place so officials can work together about where to put these stores."

 - Stuff

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