Te Mana Hauora O Te Tairawhiti
7 December 2016
As Diabetes Action Month draws to a close, Hauora Tairāwhiti staff are reflecting on a recent presentation from Endocrinologist and Diabetes Specialist, Dr Brandon Orr Walker who visited Hauora Tairāwhiti recently to discuss type 2 diabetes and how he believes it can be managed.
In New Zealand, if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, chances are you know someone that does. Around 260,000 Kiwis have the disease, and every day 50 more are diagnosed. Worryingly, the diagnosis is happening younger and younger.
Dr Brandon Orr-Walker is an Endocrinologist and Diabetes Specialist currently based at Counties Manukau District Health Board. Recently, Dr Orr-Walker delivered a series of presentations to Tairāwhiti health care providers about diabetes and why we should be treating the disease earlier.
There are lots of lifestyle factors which can lead to a person developing diabetes such as diet and activity levels. Dr Orr-Walker commented “Obesity is a preventable cause of diabetes. Statistically; diabetes is more likely to occur in Māori or Pacific people, who are of a high deprivation, and as a result, they have to make the choice to eat cheaper, and often unhealthy food.”
Dr Orr-Walker is on a mission to prevent diabetes by educating people about their lifestyle choices; and encouraging health care providers to help people manage the condition effectively at every stage, not just when complications develop. He commented “These aren’t people who have made a choice to be overweight. They haven’t made a choice to eat bad quality foods; it is what they have been brought up on, it’s what they can afford, it’s the only diet they know. By educating people to recognise their risk of diabetes and treating them sooner, clinicians can help people manage their condition more effectively.”
“We have to think what does it mean to be a Māori and have diabetes? What are the challenges to controlling it? Managing diabetes well in the first decade pays off long-term. We can’t say ‘you’ve got early diabetes young, we’ll intervene when the complications start’, we have to act now to prevent strain on the health system when complications develop in 10 years’ time.”
Dr Orr-Walker is quick to point out that everyone has a part to play in the solution. “1in 5 people in hospital have diabetes. This is not just a primary care issue; we all have to take ownership of it.” A sentiment which Hauora Tairāwhiti Clinical Nurse Specialist Lisa Smith echoes, Lisa commented “We aim to have a 360 degrees approach to diabetes care. Not only do we provide medical treatment and advice, we also have a team of social workers within the long-term conditions department. The social workers work with people to identify social factors which contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.”
Hauora Tairāwhiti also supports a number of community programmes which help people identify health choices when it comes to food or lifestyle. Lisa Smith said “We have to be realistic when it comes to healthy eating advice. We can’t change the way people think about food overnight, but we can help them make small and easy changes to their diet and lifestyle.”
“We have a big emphasis on pre-diabetic screening to identify those at risk of developing the disease as early as possible. We then work with them to change their lifestyle and avoid becoming diabetic.”
Diabetes Action Month raises awareness of diabetes around New Zealand. It highlights the common causes, effects and the impact it has on Kiwis every day and how they can reduce their risk of developing the disease.
For more information about diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.nz
Pictured - Dr Brandon Orr-Walker presents to Hauora Tairāwhiti staff