Experts converge to tackle diabetes

Western Sydney a 'heat island'

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

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

Western Sydney suburbs can be up to ten degrees hotter compared with other parts of Sydney, making exercise and activity challenging, particularly during the summer months when the heat becomes trapped without the ability to dissipate as it does in coastal areas.

Western Sydney Diabetes 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,” said Prof Maberly.

“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,” said Mr Leto.

“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,” said Prof Maberly.

“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.”

Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (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 view our list of Alliance partners, click here.