A report on the cost of type 2 diabetes in Aotearoa New Zealand was launched in Parliament on Monday, 15 March 2021 by the Hon Peeni Henare, Associate Minister of Health (Māori). The Hon Aupito William Sio, Associate Minister for Health (Pacific Peoples), also spoke to the audience of 100 people, which included health, community and business leaders, scientists, and policymakers with an interest in type 2 diabetes.
PwC produced the report, The Economic and Social Cost of Type 2 Diabetes, which was commissioned by Healthier Lives–He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge, the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre, Diabetes New Zealand, and philanthropists Tony and Heather Falkenstein.
New Zealand is facing astronomical costs and a staggering increase in the numbers of people with type 2 diabetes. The report provides a strong case for reorienting policy and prioritising resources to address this disease.
Cost of current approach
Healthier Lives Director Professor Jim Mann outlined key aspects of the report at the Parliamentary launch: “We’ve known for a long time that type 2 diabetes is an important and worrying issue in our communities, but we now know that its impact on New Zealand can be measured as a fraction of GDP. The $2.1b annual cost is equivalent to 0.67% of GDP. That’s just for this one disease and is in purely financial terms, let alone the human cost to individuals, their families and whānau.”
“Māori, Asian and Pacific peoples are disproportionately affected by this disease. There is an urgent need to address these health inequities.”
While population-level prevention measures are incredibly important in tackling this disease, this report focused on what is cost-effective for treating those who already have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Four health programmes
The PwC team undertook cost-benefit analyses on a package of four programmes addressing health behaviours which could improve New Zealand’s current approach to type 2 diabetes:
- Healthy People, Healthy Lives – community-centred lifestyle programme for preventing prediabetes progressing to type 2 diabetes;
- Owning our Futures – remission of type 2 diabetes through clinical nutrition therapy;
- Better Diabetes Medications – better management of type 2 diabetes through gold standard, subsidised medications;
- Foot Screening and Protection – prevention of serious foot-related complications, such as amputation, through optimal podiatry services.
The report shows that, while a national strategy would include other measures, simply rolling out these four programmes across Aotearoa could save millions of dollars and improve the lives of thousands of people. There is good news because PHARMAC recently funded new type 2 diabetes medications. However, the other programmes are also needed.
The study sponsors are calling on the Government to take urgent action now to change the alarming trajectory of type 2 diabetes in New Zealand.
Key points from the report
- Around 228,000 New Zealanders (or 4.7% of the population) currently have type 2 diabetes and this is expected to increase by 70-90% in the next 20 years (to 6.6%-7.4% of the population).
- The current estimated annual cost of diabetes in New Zealand is $2.1 billion (0.67% GDP), and this is projected to increase by 63% to $3.5 billion in current dollars by 2040.
- There is a shift towards people developing type 2 diabetes at a younger age, which is expected to increase the personal and economic impact of type 2 diabetes significantly.
- Inequitable health outcomes for Pacific, Asian and Māori populations will worsen if no action is taken now.
- A holistic, system-wide response from the New Zealand Government, society and individuals is urgently needed to change the projected prevalence, costs and health outcomes of type 2 diabetes.
- Four health programmes could save hundreds of millions of dollars each, increase life expectancy and improve quality of life for a huge number of New Zealanders.
Download The Economic and Social Cost of Type 2 Diabetes report
Response to the report
The launch of the report has stimulated debate in New Zealand:
- Te Ao Mārama 16/03/21 Te Ao – Māori News (Facebook)
- Response to launch Aupito Sua William Sio (Facebook)
- COVID-19 urgency needed to address an “avalanche of diabetes” amongst the Pacific community NZ Doctor
- New Zealand’s Type 2 Diabetes epidemic looking to get worse – report Newshub
- Numbers with type 2 diabetes could almost double in two decades – report Radio NZ
- Diabetes to become epidemic that will ‘bankrupt’ health system – expert Stuff
- Urgent priority’: Dire diabetes price tag expected to blow out to $3.5 billion a year by 2040 NZ Herald