By Lord Collins of Highbury - 1st February 2012
Lord Collins of Highbury calls for a public awareness campaign to help prevent and detect diabetes as latest figures show the disease is on the rise.
It only really dawned on me, after researching a speech last year on non-communicable diseases, just how much I was a victim of my own bad lifestyle. Five years ago I stopped smoking and subsequently put on weight. I then took on a very stressful job and discovered I had high blood pressure. As result of further tests, I was formally diagnosed as type 2 diabetic.
I am therefore only too acutely aware of the need to raise awareness of diabetes, not only to help prevent the condition but also to promote early diagnosis. For me the early diagnoses, and the excellent response of the NHS, have meant that I have a chance of avoiding the worst consequences of diabetes.
But wouldn’t it have been better if I could have avoided them in the first place? Early preventative action not only saves lives but also saves money. Diabetes has increased by nearly 130,000 to 2.9 million in the past year. This is nearly a 50 per cent rise since GPs first published diabetes data in 2005 (two million).
The rise is mainly in cases of type 2 diabetes, which accounts for around 90 per cent of all diagnoses. Whilst type 2 diabetes commonly develops in those who are overweight, it is important that people are aware of the other risk factors associated with the condition, which include being aged over 40, having a family history of the condition, or being from Black, Asian or minority ethnic communities. If you want to assess your own risk, go to the excellent website of Diabetes UK. A quick check-up for men is to get the tape measure out; if you have a waist size over 37, inches get tested!
Although the major rise is in type 2 diabetes, type 1 is also rising. Just before Christmas the first ever report into mortality from the National Diabetes Audit was published. This found that up to 24,000 people with diabetes are dying in England each year from causes that could be avoided through better management of their condition. About three quarters of those are aged 65 and over. However, the gap in death rates between those who have and do not have diabetes becomes more and more extreme with younger age. What was truly shocking is that so many young people are dying from diabetes.
The audit, which is managed by the NHS Information Centre and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP), also showed women with diabetes are nine times more likely to die young. Thanks in part to the work of NHS Diabetes, services for children with the condition are improving across the country but as Anna Morton, NHS Diabetes Director, said: “Adult services need to ensure they learn from these improvements and concentrate on supporting continued blood glucose control, medication and healthy lifestyles as young people move into adult services.” This, she argues, “requires a much more proactive support system from adult diabetes teams across the country”.
Type 1 is a particularly difficult condition to live with and we need to raise awareness in schools and workplaces. At the end of the day we need a huge public awareness campaign to help both prevent and detect diabetes. Why don’t we have TV ads promoting NHS health checks? Take-up remains extremely low, but in the long run it would save money.
Lord Collins of Highburywas raised to the peerage in 2011. He is an Opposition Whip in the House of Lords.