Facebook icon Twitter icon Forward icon

On 14 November, countries all around the globe undertook a variety of activities to mark World Diabetes Day in recognition of the growing challenge of diabetes.

In Australia, diabetes was the subject of  two separate Matter of Public Importance debates in the New South Wales state parliament, with both government and opposition members participating.

On World Diabetes Day, The Minister for Health the Hon Peter Dutton MP and the Minister for Communications the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP joined the crowd and walked across Sydney Harbour to launch Walk to Work, a joint initiative of Diabetes Australia and the Pedestrian Council of Australia.

In addition, the National Diabetes Strategy Group, a federal government initiative, which was announced by the Minister for Health and the Minister for Sport the Hon Peter Dutton MP, at the World Diabetes Congress 2013 in Melbourne, is now well underway. The advisory group anticipates presenting the Minister with a draft report in the first quarter of 2015.

“Talking the Walk” on Sydney Habour Bridge, (L-R) CEO Diabetes Australia Professor Greg Johnson, the Minister for Health and Minister for Sport the Hon Peter Dutton MP, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Minister for Communications, the Hon Judi Moylan, President Diabetes Australia.

The Hon Katrina Hodgekinson MP, Minister for Primary Industries, NSW, Mr. Bryan Doyle MP, Deputy Chair of NSW PDSG, and Ms. Janice McLay, Head of Policy & Government Diabetes NSW.

The Sydney Opera House lit in blue for World Diabetes Day.

In Kosovo, the Minister of Health Dr. Ferid Agani, took the lead by arranging activities at an elementary school to raise awareness of the importance of measuring blood glucose.

By 9am tents had sprung up in the capital Prishtina and other locations, where doctors and nurses measured blood glucose levels and checked Body Mass Indices (BMI).

Physicians and nurses from the Family Medicine Centre in Suhareka provided blood glucose screening on World Diabetes Day.

In Malta, Her Excellency, President of the Republic of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, joined the Parliamentary Group in submitting to blood glucose testing for diabetes.  Joining Her Excellency in the enterprise were Secretary for Health Dr. Chris Fearne MP and Leader of the Opposition and Vice President of the IDF-PDGN, the Hon Dr. Simon Busuttil MP.

Her Excellency, President of the Republic of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca.

Leader of the Opposition and Vice President of the IDF-PDGN, the Hon Dr. Simon Busuttil MP.

Secretary for Health Dr. Chris Fearne MP.

In February 2013, Members of Malta’s Parliament established the Parliamentary Working Group on Diabetes Mellitus (PWGD).  The Group was set up by Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Simon Busuttil, and The Hon Godfrey Farrugia MP was unanimously elected as Chair. In October the PWDG released Health Choices – Proposals of the Parliamentary Working Group on Diabetes Mellitus. The Report, laid on the Table of the House by the Speaker during Sitting 190 of Monday, 27 October 2014, sets out proposals and recommendations forwarded by the Parliamentary Working Group composed of 11 Members of Parliament from both sides of the House.

Dr. Busuttil paid tribute to the work of his colleague in a recent speech in Parliament:

"I would like to speak about Health. And I wish to state, that if there was ever a Minister of Health who had good intentions on health issues, this was Godfrey Farrugia who unfortunately resigned earlier this year - the first resignation of this government. I wish to salute Godfrey Farrugia. He is not with us here this evening, but I want to thank him for something positive he did. He is leading a bi-partisan group which includes MPs from both sides of the House, me included. This group is intended to work in favour of Diabetes. A condition that effects nearly 10% of our population. This working group within the Parliament is working hard and has already produced concrete results. I hope the Government will listen to what this Working Group has to say and with regards to Diabetes take action so that the lives of people living with Diabetes improves. This is something of importance on which there seems to be consensus so the government should not ignore it."

This work has since culminated in the government establishing a steering committee to define a National Diabetes Strategy for Malta.

The Health Choices – Proposals of the Parliamentary Working Group on Diabetes Mellitus report, presented to the Speaker of the House.

Diabetes, the leading cause of vision loss

One of the preventable complications of diabetes is vision loss.

According to leading international expert, Professor Hugh Taylor AC, President of the International Council of Ophthalmology, up to 98% of blindness due to diabetes can be prevented through regular eye examinations, which usually should be annual.

Professor Taylor makes the point that when a person loses their sight it becomes difficult for them to self-manage their diabetes. 

So alarming is rate of sight loss in countries of the Commonwealth that The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust convened a Summit in India in April this year.  

Eleanor Fuller OBE, Director of Advocacy and Commonwealth Engagement, reports on the work of the trust, which aims to eliminate avoidable blindness within the Commonwealth:

© Public Health Foundation of India
© Aravind, 2006

“Tackling diabetic retinopathy across the Commonwealth

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness (IDF Parliamentary Champions Forum Melbourne Declaration)

The number of people affected by diabetes – and at risk of its complications, including sight loss - is growing alarmingly across the world.  Within the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth, the predicted increase is significantly higher than the global average: a 60% increase by 2030. 

The main cause of blindness for those living with the disease is diabetic retinopathy. But with screening and early intervention, blindness from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented.

The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust aims to make a decisive contribution to the elimination of avoidable blindness in the Commonwealth. Tackling diabetic retinopathy is one of its key initiatives.

In India, it supported research to appraise the different models being used there to prevent blindness by diabetic retinopathy. In April 2014 it convened a Summit of the key agencies, national and state government, professional bodies, institutions and individuals from India and the Commonwealth. Participants agreed to work together to develop and implement a five-year national plan of action.

As part of its Initiative the Trust will also work with partners to integrate specialist screening and treatment into national health strategies to prevent people in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and in Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and the Pacific from ever going blind as a result of diabetic retinopathy.

The Commonwealth Eye Health Consortium supported by the Trust is building capacity to address diabetic retinopathy through training, research and technology.”