Diabetes debate heats up

Diabetes Alliance members Thomas Astell-Burt (University of Wollongong), Xiaoqi Feng (University of NSW) , Matthew O’Connor (Blacktown City Council), Prof Glen Maberly (Western Sydney Diabetes), Alex O’Mara (Department of Planning and Environment), Janine Dawson (Western Sydney Diabetes), Dr Sebastian Pfautsh (Western Sydney University), Ian Corless (Diabetes NSW & ACT)

Western Sydney can be up to ten degrees hotter than other parts of Sydney, presenting a unique health challenge for people wanting to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Amid World Diabetes Day today, the Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) Alliance shared this new insight into their fight against the diabetes epidemic.

Western Sydney was described by experts at a recent diabetes alliance forum as a ‘heat island’ significantly impacting the health of local residents.  

Co-promoted by WSD, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue, the event was an opportunity for researchers, clinicians, members of government and the private sector to discuss ideas for tackling the local diabetes epidemic.

The higher average temperature makes exercise and activity challenging, particularly during the summer months when the heat becomes trapped and lingers late into the evening.

Tips to beat the heat and continue exercising during the warmer months?

  • Supercharge your day. Early morning is the best time to exercise outdoors, so set your alarm earlier and be inspired knowing the activity will help you feel energised and alert!
  • Keep hydrated. Ditch the sugary sports drinks and make sure you have water handy for any activity, especially in warmer weather.
  • Dive in. Swimming is a great way to improve your heart health, lung health and muscle strength, all the while staying cool.
  • Stay sun-safe. Arm yourself with a cap, wrap-around sunnies and sunscreen to keep the rays away.

WSD director, Professor Glen Maberly, said creating liveable cities is key to improving the health of our community and in beating type 2 diabetes.

“Approximately 72,000 people in Western Sydney are affected by diabetes, costing an estimated $1.16 billion in healthcare expenditure each year,” Prof Maberly said.

“Routine testing for diabetes at the Emergency Departments at Blacktown and Mount Druitt hospitals revealed that Western Sydney is a diabetes hotspot and people who live here are twice as likely to have, or be at risk of, diabetes, than people living in the northern or beachside suburbs.

“The good news is that type 2 diabetes can be prevented. By losing 2-4 kilograms, it is possible to beat type 2 diabetes, but we need to ensure our urban environment is built in such a way that it promotes healthy lifestyles.”

Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue executive director Adam Leto said being physically active can take more effort in Western Sydney compared with other parts of Sydney, so the region needs greener, well-designed public spaces to enable people to get active including better protection of our water assets.

“Increasing the levels of physical activity through our parklands, rivers, bike lanes and active travel options can only help reduce obesity if people use them. For this to occur, a whole-of-community approach to place-making is required,” Mr Leto said.

“It’s especially important that younger Australians feel encouraged and enabled to embrace an active lifestyle, as childhood behaviour generally evolves into lifetime habits.”

Prof Maberly said the health system is not the only player when it comes to beating type 2 diabetes.

“More than 120 partners have joined forces at the WSD Alliance and are working collaboratively on joint initiatives aimed at addressing the social, economic and environmental challenges in the west,” Prof Maberly said.

“Tackling the diabetes epidemic requires a whole-of-community approach as the health system alone can’t fix the problem.

“We have harnessed the power and passion of our WSD Alliance members through a new custom-built online platform that will enable our partners to connect with each-other, share ideas and progress important initiatives together.

“Launched at the WSD Alliance forum, we hope the WSD Alliance Hub will enable more connectivity among our members so we can continue to beat diabetes together.”

WSROC president, councillor Barry Calvert, said the WSD Alliance is an important initiative tackling one of Western Sydney’s greatest heath challenges.

“WSROC is proud to have been part of the WSD Alliance since its beginnings in 2013,” said Cr Calvert.  

“The strength of the alliance is its holistic approach. Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle disease, so prevention requires tackling all the components that influence our lifestyle choices.”

To find out more about Western Sydney Diabetes please visit https://www.westernsydneydiabetes.com.au/