30 Dec 2009

Fred Hollows survey showing high levels of diabetes in Fiji will help health care planning

2:18 pm on 30 December 2009

New figures suggesting higher than expected diabetes rates in Fiji will help with planning health care in the future.

The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ, which works to restore sight and prevent sight loss around the Pacifc, spoke to nearly 1,400 people over forty in 34 locations around the main island of Viti Levu.

Early results from the survey in Fiji suggest forty per cent of those over 40 have the disease, compared with 9 per cent of people in New Zealand.

Over half of all the Indo Fijians screened had the disease.

The Foundation' s NZ International Programme Director, Dr Tom Schaefer, says diabetes is fast becoming the number one cause of preventable blindness around the region:

"It's one of the most severe issues is diabetic eye disease. While cataracts were the leading cause of blindness, preventable blindness in the Pacific Islands, and still are, it's very rapidly becoming diabetic eye disease that has become the leading cause of blindness and although we can slow the progression through using laser treatment and other activities, we really need to slow the progression of diabetes if we are to addres the underlying problems there."

Dr Schaefer says it will take many years to change attitudes towards the lifestyles that are contributing to the disease and it is important to keep pushing the healthy living message.