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Patients getting younger in rural diabetes struggle – ABC

Alarming figures released this week by Diabetes Australia suggest we may not be as healthy as we like to think. There are double the amount of Victorians living with diabetes in 2011 than there were a decade ago, with even teenagers receiving the diagnosis.

In launching the findings, the chief executive of Diabetes Australia, Professor Greg Johnston, said increases in rural and regional areas of Victoria were particularly pronounced and that an ‘over-supply of fast food outlets’ may be contributing to the problem.

In Mildura, where residents are spoilt for choice when it comes to fast food, four new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each week, some of them teenagers.

Lisa Dunning is a registered nurse working as a diabetes educator with Sunraysia Community Health and says despite the strain known as ‘type 2’ once being regarded as a disease that only older adults were at-risk of, even people under 30 are not immune.

“It was referred to as a lifestyle disease – you know if you were over fifty, over weight, didn’t do excercise, didn’t eat very well.

“We’re not just seeing it now in people who are fifty, sixty plus – we’re actually seeing it in a lot younger people,” she says, “we’re even seeing it in children.”

Robert McGlashan, who heads up the Northern Mallee Primary Care Partnership says the trends that suggest younger people are contracting type 2 diabetes are concerning.

“Obviously, the earlier you get diabetes, the earlier you get the complications that come with it; you know we’re talking about kidney disease, blindness and vascular-cardiac disease, stuff like that.”

Ms Dunning is working to educate people at risk of type 2 diabetes through the Life! program, an initiative of Diabetes Australia which has received funding by the Victorian government to continue for the next five years.

“It’s about making little changes that you’re prepared to stick to for the rest of your life, to help prevent type 2 diabetes,” says Ms Dunning.

Call 1300 136 588 for more information on type 2 diabetes prevention. To assess your risk of type 2 diabetes, call 13 RISK (13 7475) or take the online diabetes risk test , visit your GP and if you are deemed at risk of type 2 diabetes, join a Life! course or use the telephone health coaching service.