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Diabetes challenges New Zealand healthcare

Diabetes in its worst form is beginning to affect an increasing number of people and is set to become a major epidemic in New Zealand, a leading medical practitioner has warned.

Professor Chellaraj Benjamin, Oncology Consultant at Auckland Hospital and Clinical Director at Mercy Ascot Hospital said that while obesity is a major problem in New Zealand its side-effects are beginning to loom large, creating serious inroads into the public health services.

Speaking at a ‘Health Expo’ organised by the Auckland Indian Medical Society of which he is the President, Dr Benjamin said that it was time to control the disease and move it from hospital based care to community issue to be tackled as a common challenge.

Controllable disease

‘Prevention is better than cure’ was the theme of the one-day event, organised in conjunction with the Auckland Indian Association.

“All of us can each other avoid contracting diabetes with easy shifts in our lifestyle through better eating and drinking habits and doing some form of physical exercise. Walking has always been considered to be a good physical workout,” he said.

According to him, New Zealand has the dubious distinction of being ranked third among OECD countries with diabetes as the epidemic problem.

“This disease creates all sorts of complications in human bodies and is set to become the biggest burden in our health care programmes. More than 225,000 people are diabetic of who 13,000 are of Indian origin,” he said.

Worldwide problem

Dr Benjamin quoted international statistics, saying that about 350 million people around the world suffer from diabetes and that the disease can be countered by appropriate eating and drinking habits and physical exercise. Diabetes is known to cause a variety of other serious medical conditions, including blindness, kidney failure and cardiovascular diseases. In the US, one person suffers a stroke every 12 minutes,” he said.

Indians vulnerable

Dr Benjamin said that one in every five persons affected by diabetes is Indian and that India was until recently ‘The Diabetes Capital of the World.’

“However, China has overtaken India to that unwanted ‘top position.’ All of us must own responsibility and treat diabetes as the common enemy. We must also realise that a society that has obese people suffers serious health consequences. There should be better strategies and tools to treat people who are already obese and prevent others becoming victims through public education programmes,” he said.

MPs concerned

Dr Paul Hutchison, elected Member of Parliament from Hunua (including Pukekohe) and Chairman of Parliament Select Committee on Health, said that his Anglican father lived up to 99 years of age, practising meditation (Kriya Yoga) taught by the late Paramahansa Yogananda.

“Indian teachings of meditation and exercise have stood the test of time and hence it is important that all of us understand their significance. Children are susceptible to health risks and hence should be properly educated on good eating habits and exercise,” he said.

Phil Goff, Labour MP from Mt Roskill, said that Parliament has always listened to doctors and health professionals to promote quality public health programmes. The significance of Mahatma Gandhi’s advice, ‘Health is Wealth, not pieces of gold and silver’ is now being recognised,” he said.

Hundreds of people visited a number of stalls set up at the Health Expo and also benefited from free medical check-up with a number of General Practitioners and Specialists who were available at the event.

A demonstration by Ella Kumar and her group as to how work out can be fun and easy was among the highlights of the inaugural function.

Editor’s Note: The pictures appearing in this report are from our archives

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