Diabetes: A Public Health Emergency

Article By: Alexander Willems 04/06/2018


Diabetes: A Public Health Emergency

Diabetes is becoming a more serious health problem in Australia every day. The last 20 years have seen diabetes prevalence triple from 1.5% in 1989-90 to 4.7% in 2014-15 [1].The latest data from the Department of Health indicates that approximately 5.1% of Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes [2]. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85-90% of these cases [3]. However, many more are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or have simply not been diagnosed, yet. The Department of Health estimates that “for every 100 people with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in Australia, at least 25 people may be living with undiagnosed diabetes” [4].


What is type 2 diabetes?

When the body metabolises food, carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars, such as glucose [2]. As glucose is a source of energy, it enters the blood to be distributed throughout the body. The hormone insulin plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels, by allowing glucose to enter the body’s cells to be converted into energy [5]. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body does not respond effectively to insulin, resulting in chronic elevated blood sugar levels, which have major implications to one’s health [5].


Risk factors, preventative measures & disease management

  • A key risk factor for type 2 diabetes is your lifestyle, such as inactivity and a poor diet that is high in sugar, saturated fats and low in fibre [2]. Additional non-modifiable risk factors include your age, gender and family history. Furthermore, individuals suffering from being overweight or obese and associated abdominal fat are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes [2].
  • Preventative measures need to address the outlined risk factors by increasing physical activity, adhering to a healthy & balanced diet as well as reducing your waist measurement and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Disease management of diabetes involves regular controls of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid levels to effectively minimise diabetes symptoms and the risk of complications [2]. While type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease, it can be successfully managed through lifestyle changes and particularly through diet [3]. Providing a holistic disease management plan to affected individuals is important, because 85% of people with diabetes suffer from co-morbidities, such as obesity or hypertension [6]. The Department of Health recommends the increased use of screening tools to detect early-stage diabetes, which improves the chances of successful disease management [4]. The World Health Organization [7] and the Royal College of Pathologists Australia [8] endorse HbA1c testing as a very reliable and evidence-based diagnostic tool for type 2 diabetes. 


What is HbA1c? 

HbA1c is ‘glycated haemoglobin’, which develops when haemoglobin and glucose join the blood [9]. Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) naturally occurs as a result of sugar in the blood stream and ultimately reflects the amount of overall sugar in the metabolic system [9]. HbA1c screening is therefore, a strong indicator of a person’s average blood sugar levels over a period of 8-12 weeks [8].As such it provides an effective assessment of one’s risk to develop diabetes or to experience diabetes-related complications [9].


How can we help?

HbA1c can be measured as quickly as a few minutes with the market-leading Afinion technology utilised by SMG Health in our corporate health checks. The test does not require prior fasting, can be tested any time of the day and delivers lab-quality results [8]. Implementing these checks is a very effective screening methodology to detect people at risk of developing diabetes as well as to alert people with diagnosed diabetes of potential complications and help with their disease management [7].

Diabetes week is approaching soon in early July, so this presents an opportune time to open this conversation with your staff members.

Ask us how SMG Health can help your organisation to deliver convenient and quick onsite diabetes screens to your staff. For more information email info@smghealth.com.au or phone 1300 657 644.




  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016) Diabetes Indicators. from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes-indicators/contents/summary
  2. Department of Health (2016) Diabetes. from: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/chronic-diabetes#s1
  3. Diabetes Australia (2015) Type 2 diabetes. from: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/type-2-diabetes
  4. Department of Health (2015). Australian National Diabetes Strategy 2016-2020 . Canberra: Department of Health .
  5. Diabetes.co.uk – the global diabetes community (2017) Insulin. from:  http://www.diabetes.co.uk/body/insulin.html
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2016). Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199 . Canberra: AIHW.
  7. World Health Organization (2011) Use of Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) in the Diagnosis of Diabetes Mellitus. Geneva: WHO.
  8. d'Emden, M. C., Shaw, J. E., Colman, P. G., Colagiuri, S., Twigg, S. M., Jones, G. R., et al. (2012) The role of HbA1c in the diagnosis of diabetes mellitus in Australia. MJA 197(4): 220-221.
  9. Diabetes.co.uk – the global diabetes community (2017) Guide to HbA1c. from:  http://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-hba1c.html

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