Cost of living crisis affecting health outcomes for Australians with diabetes, nurse warns
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When Sarah Maher sees patients with diabetes in her central Queensland hospital, she knows exactly the course of action she should prescribe to help.
But the Gladstone nurse is also keenly aware that being able to afford the remedy is out of reach for an increasing number of people.
Ms Maher, a diabetes educator, says the rising cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, which is what patients are encouraged to eat to help manage the condition, can make diabetes management difficult.
"It's cheaper to just buy staples such as pasta and rice," she said.
"Often they are a lot more available and cheaper than say your fresh fruit and veggies.
"We also saw problems with [the availability of] frozen fruit and veggies, and meat being so expensive."
Ms Maher says the nationwide housing shortage also means there is less money in household budgets for people to be able to manage the condition.
"Housing is no longer as available as it used to be, or affordable, so a lot more families are worried they're going to be homeless," she said.
"One patient said their couch had better housing than what they did, because they had to put all of their furniture into storage because they couldn't get a house."
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that impacts how the body turns food into energy, a process which uses a hormone called insulin.
According to Diabetes Australia, about 1.8 million people across Australia have been diagnosed with diabetes, about 7 per cent of Australia's population.
About 10 per cent of that is type 1 diabetes, while 85 per cent is type 2. The remaining 5 per cent relates to gestational diabetes.
According to an Australian Institute of Health and Wellness report released last month, "the impact of diabetes has been higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, those living in lower socio-economic areas and in remote areas".
"Generally, the impact of diabetes increases with increasing remoteness and socio-economic disadvantage," the report read.
"Deaths related to diabetes were 1.9 times as high in remote and very remote areas compared with major cities, and 2.4 times as high in the lowest compared with the highest socio-economic areas."
Diabetes Australia spokesperson Renza Scibilia said there were a range of alternatives people living with diabetes could look to.
"Fresh fruit and vegetables are great when those sort of things are affordable and easily accessible, but that's certainly not the case," she said.
"Frozen and tinned vegetables are full of nutrients and a perfectly healthy option."
Ms Scibilia said the cost of travelling to see medical professionals also added up.
"Asking about ongoing telehealth appointments is also certainly something that people can consider as well," she said.
"There are changing rules and regulations and reimbursement around that."
Ms Maher said there were a limited number of diabetes specialists in regional areas, both endocrinologists and specialist diabetes educators like herself.
"It's a real struggle at the moment," she said.
"This has been going on for quite some time. So it's not a new thing."
Ms Maher was recently named Queensland's credentialled diabetes educator of the year by the Australian Diabetes Educators Association, for the work she does with her patients in Gladstone.
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