Learning more about diabetes in the NT

Learning more about diabetes in the NT

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in the world.[1] In Australia, type 2 diabetes is particularly prevalent in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Over time, complications from this condition can cause serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys resulting in lower limb amputations and loss of eyesight.

To find out more about this preventable chronic condition and how we can support our service providers to help prevent diabetes-related complications like lower limb amputations, NT PHN hosted a ‘Lunch and Learn’ presentation. Program Coordinators from the Top End and Central Australia Diabetes-related Foot Complications Programs (Ameina Brunker from AMSANT and Laura Stuart from Central Australia Aboriginal Congress) visited the NT PHN office in Winnellie last week and spoke about their respective programs.

Outreach team Michelle Pollard and James Mayo with Laura Stuart from Congress and Ameina Brunker from ANSANT

It was alarming to hear 31% of all surgical beds in Territory hospitals are assigned for people with food infections linked to their diabetes conditions.

According to the program teams, the most pressing challenge is the need for more health workers in the NT, particularly podiatrists and specialised footcare professionals.

Specialty network groups are also needed to foster collaboration, knowledge sharing and enhancing standards of care. There are many barriers to delivering podiatry services especially in remote areas such as high staff turnover, difficulty reaching patients and lack of coordination.

“The greatest need is for better health promotion and education, so people can get in early and get treatment when they identify any foot problems relating to their diabetes,” said Ameina Brunker.

Fortunately, there are several programs in the Territory available to help build the capacity of communities and clinicians to address diabetes foot care.

Some of these programs are community focused including raising awareness by building better health promotion and education with resources in local languages for both patients and clinicians.

For example, in Central Australia, Congress run ‘Ingke Arntarnte-areme’ or the Looking After Feet Program. This is an integrated approach to diabetes foot care which includes telehealth and clinical coordination and workforce capacity strengthening alongside community resources in language. Under the program, someone living in a remote community can scan a photo of their foot with their camera and send it directly to the on-call podiatrist without the need to travel to a regional centre.

NT PHN administer the Outreach Health Services program which is also helping to address diabetes foot-related health problems. It provides logistical support for diabetes educators podiatrists, dietitians and exercise physiologists to travel to 70 communities across the NT.

By increasing communities’ access to health services, we can reduce a patient’s need to travel long distances to attend a consultation or receive treatment, meaning they can stay close to their home and family.

AMSANT also runs the Top End Diabetes-related Foot Complications Program which coordinates a suite of services and programs including establishing a network of podiatrists in the NT; promotion of podiatry to primary health care services; standardisation of foot screening processes; culturally appropriate support and rehabilitation; and incorporation of standardised foot care into the Communicare patient record system. A major achievement of this program is the establishment of a full-time podiatrist at Danila Dilba Health Service.

Improving population health is an important priority for NT PHN. We partner with health care providers to help reduce preventable hospitalisation for people with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Learn more about our Outreach program: https://www.ntphn.org.au/programs/outreach-health/


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