Western Sydney Hotspot

Western Sydney Hotspot

A Reason to Act

Western Sydney is a diabetes hotspot with disease rates higher than the NSW average.

If this ‘hotspot’ is not addressed, within a decade it will cause an unsustainable economic and societal burden on the state’s healthcare system. Western Sydney faces some daunting issues as the social determinants of health that promote healthy eating, active living and social inclusion are not working favourably to prevent diabetes and its progression.

Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) was established in response to the growing threat diabetes poses to our community’s health and wellbeing. It calls for all levels of government, the private sector and non-government partners to work together. WSD recognises that diabetes is everybody’s business and that partnerships between community health services, general practice, hospitals, specialist practices and allied health need to be improved so that people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes have access to more integrated and comprehensive diabetes services. 

More than half of Western Sydney’s population is overweight and at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The red areas on the map show the odds ratio of having diabetes is 1.5 in the areas including Western Sydney.

This is much higher than the blue areas, which have reduced rates of diabetes. This data was compiled by University of Wollongong researchers Professors Thomas Astell-Burt and Xiaoqi Feng from the 45 years and Up population health study

One of the key goals of the WSD initiative is to turn the red hot-spots in our region into blue.

An extensive screening program of 4000 residents throughout Western Sydney occurred predominantly within general practice settings, during 2013-15 using the AUSDRISK assessment tool identified that up to 50% of the population were at high risk of developing the disease. This went as high as 100% in some high-risk populations.

See page 6 our 2021 Year in Review.

This is being driven by weight gain in the population. As the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIWH) has shown, the proportion of Australians with an obese BMI has increased dramatically since 1995 and is above 30% of the population using the most current estimates. 

While the pandemic has delayed the AIWH update for obesity estimates, it is likely that this trend has continued in 2020/21. 

We know that diabetes is Australia’s largest disease burden, even though 80% of the condition is preventable. The increased morbidity and mortality are clearly expressed in heart attack, heart failure, strokes, kidney failure, foot amputations, liver disease and blindness. The actual prevalence of diabetes is not known because it is not measured directly.

Factors such as age, family history and place of birth can contribute to an increased risk of developing diabetes. However, some groups are at even greater risk of developing diabetes or complications from their diabetes and therefore require targeted actions.

Diabetes Prevalence in the Western Sydney Community

All these groups are strongly represented among western Sydney residents:
Indigenous people

Type 2 diabetes is more frequent and has an earlier onset in this population.

People with mental health problems

41.6% of adults with diabetes reported having medium, high or very high levels of psychological distress.

People affected by psychotic illness

Experience a range of risk factors that place them at significant risk of developing diabetes compared to the general population.

Women in their childbearing years

The percentage of gestational diabetes in Western Sydney tends to be higher than for NSW, and it also has a high birth rate, with four out of the five local government areas having higher fertility rates than the rest of NSW.