Diabetes is the country’s biggest and fastest-growing health condition and according to Ministry of Health estimates there are now 47,988 people with the disease in Counties Manukau.
One hundred Pacific health coaches will be trained to help prevent and treat diabetes in south Auckland.
The placements will be funded as part of a $20 million budget package announced last week.
But the Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa says it isn’t enough to address the sheer scale of the problem.
According to the Ministry of Health, there are now 47,988 people with the disease in Counties Manukau alone – about 10% of the district’s population.
* Critics blame diabetes deaths on Pharmac taking years to fund new drug
* Counties Manukau DHB says $300m funding shortfall affects diabetes treatment
* Diabetes expert calls for independent watchdog to help stop growth of disease
* Thousands of south Aucklanders could benefit from Medsafe approving new diabetes drug
Health coaches provide advice and guidance to people with diabetes, to help them make dietary and lifestyle choices to help prevent or manage the condition.
This week, Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio announced more details on the funding package, which is designed to support Pacific healthcare providers and reduce diabetes among Pasifika in south Auckland.
“This will include a mix of primary, community, and tertiary care interventions to help families manage and treat diabetes based on Pacific models of care,” Sio said.
“Diabetes is one of the major contributors to a significant and growing gap in life expectancy between Pacific and non-Māori, non-Pacific peoples.”
RNZ: Budget: Patient Voices Aotearoa: Pharmac’s funding not enough
Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa chairman John Baker works as a specialist where he sees the impact of the condition on people’s lives on a daily basis.
He said while more diabetes prevention and treatment is needed in Counties Manukau, the funding is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed. Baker said it would equate to less than one health coach for every 150 people with the condition.
He said Ministry of Health estimates show there are 15,734 Pacific people with the disease in Counties Manukau – about one-third of all diabetics in the area.
Baker said while the Government’s funding was “commendable”, the sheer scale of south Auckland’s diabetes problem means it’s just not enough.
“I think it’s a token gesture by the Government because it isn’t addressing the real problem,” Baker said. “It’s going to take a much bigger commitment to do that.”
But despite Baker’s criticism, Pasifika GP Network chairman Dr Api Talemaitoga welcomed the decision to provide targeted funding for diabetes in south Auckland’s Pacific community.
He said the disease is a major health issue in Counties Manukau and supporting the providers in those communities is important.
“The diabetes problem in south Auckland is massive and it’s not just the illness itself, but the fact it affects every organ in the body,” Talemaitoga said.
He said whether its people having limbs amputated due to the disease, to losing their eyesight, or suffering from kidney failure, it has such a serious impact on their lives.
People with diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels – either because their body does not make enough insulin, or because their cells have become resistant to insulin, which helps the body process sugars.
As a result diabetics often rely on dialysis when their kidneys are no longer functioning properly.
Talemaitoga said he’s keen to see funding go towards reducing the numbers of people who need such treatment.
“We’ve got the highest rates of dialysis in the country and that’s a real drain on the health system,” Talemaitoga said. “So if we can help prevent people needing dialysis, it’s got to be worth it.”