Chronic diseases pose major health care challenge

QUT Faculty of Health Executive Dean Andrew Wilson told a Courier-Mail health forum yesterday that one in five Australians could potentially develop diabetes in the future, posing a huge challenge to the health care system.

Professor Wilson, a former deputy director general of policy, strategy and resourcing at Queensland Health, was one of five panellists at the Courier-Mail‘s Let the Sun Shine In forum, held yesterday at the Institute for Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) at QUT.

“We are facing an epidemic of chronic disease which is equivalent to the epidemic of infectious diseases that we faced in the pre-antibiotic, pre-hygiene eras,” Professor Wilson said.

“We are now the second nation in terms of obesity. We’re neck and neck with the US. Depending which stats you look at, either the US leads or Australia leads (in obesity rates).

“The consequence of that is an epidemic of diabetes that we are seeing at the moment with all the flow on consequences that come from diabetes.

“We’re facing a situation where potentially one in every five Australians has diabetes.

“That care can only be provided in comprehensive primary care environments. I think we are going to have to look very much at what happens in that space.”

Watch a video of Professor Wilson on The Courier-Mail’s website

Professor Wilson told the forum that governments had under-invested in the prevention and control of chronic diseases.

“If the health system can’t respond to the epidemic of chronic disease that is here, but is going to get even bigger, then we’ve got a major problem,” he said.

“Understanding how we do that better both in terms of prevention and how to manage people who already have chronic disease better is an absolutely key issue.

“Part of that is training a clinical workforce which is ready and able to deal with that particular problem.”

Professor Wilson said the other critical element to consider was affordability and access to specialist care.

“If you’ve got a chronic disease you may need to go and see a specialist on many, many occasions,” he said.

“With the gap between the (Medicare) rebate and what most specialists charge, for somebody with a chronic disease that is becoming a very significant barrier to proper care to people in that space.”

Media contact: Stephanie Harrington, media officer, 3138 1150, [email protected]