November 14 marks World Diabetes Day. It became a designated United Nations Day in 2007 and highlights the seriousness and impact of diabetes worldwide. The date marks the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who 100 years ago, along with Charles Best pioneered the life-saving discovery of insulin. While this was a significant breakthrough in diabetes care there is still so much to more to do in the day to day management of the condition and funding for diabetes research remains critical.
In 1923, as a 6-year-old, Phyllis Lush became the first Australian to be treated with insulin. Phyllis went on to live a long life and passed away aged 81. For many years insulin from cattle and pigs was used, and it wasn’t until 1982 that the first commercially available biosynthetic human insulin became available. Despite many advances in the treatment of diabetes, insulin remains key, but we are yet to find that elusive cure – that’s why research is so incredibly important. Sadly, during the period 2013 -2020 we have seen a 30% decrease in funding for diabetes research from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), as conversely, we see a 28% increase in numbers of people with diabetes registered to the National Diabetes Services Scheme. How is this possible?
In the last 12 years through the Diabetes Australia Research program, more than $36 million has been invested in vital diabetes research supporting hundreds of researchers and projects. For the highly competitive 2021 Grant Round, Diabetes Australia received a total of 325 high standard applications, of which only 52 were able to be funded, with a combined value of $3.1 million. This is leaving hundreds of important diabetes research projects without funding.
There is a similar experience for diabetes researchers with the major Government funding bodies such as the NHMRC mentioned before. Less than 15% of diabetes research proposals are funded through the NHMRC.
Diabetes is a serious condition that can be challenging to manage and can lead to life threatening complications if it’s not well managed. This includes heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, limb amputation, and blindness. Added to the list is also the mental and emotional health impact of living with diabetes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In Tasmania alone, 30 000 people are diagnosed with diabetes, 12 000 people live with the disease undiagnosed and 45 000 are at high risk of diabetes – that’s 16% of our island population. Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic condition and most of us would know someone who has been diagnosed.
For over six decades Diabetes Tasmania has supported Tasmanians living with diabetes and their families. Our programs and services give people the confidence they need to manage their condition and stay in good health. But there is so much more we can do.
Research is key to help us find a cure for diabetes and to better understand the condition.
This World Diabetes Day, we are taking the opportunity to call for greater investment in research funding. It’s been 100 years since the discovery of insulin. Whilst we take the time to celebrate, we must not lose sight of what’s ahead. Now is the perfect time for us to continue the momentum and seriously commit the funds needed to support life changing research with the goal to ultimately find that elusive cure for diabetes.
CEO, Diabetes Tasmania
About Diabetes Tasmania
Diabetes Tasmania is your local office of Diabetes Australia. We are here for you now and into the future. We offer free information, programs, individual health advice and services. Visit our website for more information https://diabetestas.org.au/