A parliamentary inquiry into diabetes has highlighted the crucial role that Primary Health Networks (PHNs) play in the early stage of a person’s diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. According to Tony Russell from Diabetes Australia, the health system is currently set up in a way that newly diagnosed diabetes patients do not have access to specialist care, leaving primary care to manage their early diagnosis and care. Therefore, PHNs need more funding to effectively manage diabetes at this stage.
The inquiry also discussed the need for significant changes to the Health Star Rating System. David Clarke, CEO of the Australian Patients Association, suggested making labelling under this system mandatory. Currently, brands have the option to label some foods and not others, and the system does not differentiate between natural and refined sugars. This can result in misleading ratings. Clarke proposed implementing Chile’s food labelling system, which requires companies to display a warning sign on products containing certain levels of trans-fats and processed sugars.
The importance of preventive measures and health promotion was emphasized as well, given the burden that diabetes places on the health system. Caroline Miller of the Public Health Association of Australia called for restrictions on the marketing of “ultra-processed” foods, such as displaying the number of teaspoons of sugar in a product.
There was also discussion surrounding the potential implementation of a sugar tax. While some jurisdictions have seen success in reducing sugar consumption through such a tax, its effectiveness is not certain. Committee members suggested that any funds from a sugar tax should be directed towards specific prevention activities, such as increased funding for youth sport.
It was highlighted that companies would likely work to lower prices to bypass the sugar tax, so comprehensive measures would be necessary to ensure its effectiveness. Additionally, more consistent funding for preventative health was called for, as it has often been overlooked compared to traditional medical services.
In conclusion, this parliamentary inquiry shed light on the importance of PHNs in managing diabetes at an early stage. It also highlighted the need for improved legislation, specifically regarding food labelling and the potential implementation of a sugar tax. Preventive measures and consistent funding for preventative health were emphasized as crucial in combating diabetes.