'Fat capital' targeted with diabetes campaign

THE Queensland electorate of Hinkler, home to the third highest rate of diabetes in the country, is one of 12 federal seats being targeted by a campaign to highlight the high incidence of the disease and the risk of amputation it carries.

Hinkler has a diabetes rate of 7% - almost two points higher than the national of 5.2% - and is the only Queensland electorate listed in the "very high" category.

The seat takes in Hervey Bay and Bundaberg was recently named Australia's "fat capital".

Only the South Australian seat of Grey and Gilmore in New South Wales have higher rates of diabetes, each with 7.5%.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard's seat of Lalor in Victoria is among the diabetes dozen with a rate of 6.4%.

More than one million Australian have diabetes, and half that many are diagnosed each year.

Australia's podiatrists say it leads to 4300 amputations annually, which represents a 30% jump in the past decade.

And it's this final figure Australian podiatrists are highlighting in their Sock It To Diabetes campaign.

The Australasian Podiatry Council has called for more Medicare-funded visits to podiatrists for people with diabetes.

It says lifting the ceiling from five visits to 12 would cost $85 million and dramatically reduce amputation levels and generate more than $300 million in health sector savings.

And the figures it cites make a pretty compelling case.

Every two hours an Australian loses a toe or other part of their foot or even a lower limb as a direct result of diabetes-related foot disease.

The APC also uses the figures from a study that suggests one in 20 hospital. beds is used to treat a diabetes foot problem, placing a $612 million burden on the public healthcare system.

Hinkler MP Paul Neville told APN Newsdesk he had received a letter from the APC and planned to raise the issue with Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton.

Mr Neville said it was a problem that needed to be "confronted", adding a range of measures could be considered to address the issue, including pilot programs in the 12 electorates or means-tested government funding.

"The podiatry council has made the case for a form of intervention. That could take a number of forms," Mr Neville said.

"I think we should look at the problem. If $85 million was seen by the government in these strident times to be a bit much I don't think it should be all or nothing."

In attempting to rationalise the figures Mr Neville, who is retiring at the next election, said the seats on the list appeared to fall into two categories: coastal/lifestyle areas with a high elderly population, or inland areas where access to medical help was not as great.

The electorates with a very high incidence of diabetes:

  • 7.5%: Gilmore (NSW), Grey (SA)
  • 7%: Hinkler (Qld)
  • 6.9%: Wakefield (SA)
  • 6.6%: McMillan(VIC)
  • 6.5%: Lingiari (NT), Farrer (NSW)
  • 6.4%: Gippsland (VIC), Lalor (VIC), Paterson (NSW)
  • 6.3%: Canning (WA), Parkes (NSW)

*Figures taken from the National Diabetes Services Scheme Statistics. These electorates are classified "very high"