Media releases

March 4, 2003

Better community awareness key to supporting juvenile diabetes research efforts

Medibank Private and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) have joined together to raise awareness of juvenile diabetes and boost much-needed research funding to find a cure.

Medibank Private Managing Director, George Savvides said the three-year partnership, which was signed today by both parties at a ceremony held in Medibank Private's new Martin Place retail centre in Sydney, would undertake joint activities to help bring a cure for the disease closer to realisation.

"Juvenile, or Type 1, diabetes affects more than 100,000 Australians, with 800 more children and young adults expected to be diagnosed this year," he said.

"The incidence of juvenile diabetes in Australia has doubled in the past five years and is one of our most costly childhood diseases."

With juvenile diabetes, a person's pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone necessary to sustain life. Although the causes are not entirely known, scientists believe the body's own immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Juvenile diabetes strikes children suddenly, makes them insulin dependent for life, and carries the constant threat of devastating complications, including kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack, and stroke. Even with insulin, Type 1 diabetes usually results in a drastic reduction in quality of life and shortens the average life span by 15 years.

"While insulin keeps people with juvenile diabetes alive, it's not a cure nor does it prevent the onset of complications," Mr Savvides said.

"As Australia's largest health insurer with three million people covered, we are in a good position to help JDRF attract more community and government support for research into this debilitating disease."

JDRF's CEO, Sheila Royles said JDRF was the largest non-government funder of diabetes research around the world.

"The Foundation has been involved in virtually every major development in diabetes research over the last 30 years and we firmly believe that with continued support from government, the community and organisations like Medibank Private, a cure will be found in our lifetime," Ms Royles said.

Medibank Private's support includes:

  • sponsoring JDRF's largest 'Diabetes One' research symposiums in Melbourne and Sydney, which showcase research progress and latest disease management techniques;
  • providing comprehensive information about juvenile diabetes and JDRF through Medibank's website and other channels, including its extensive retail network; and
  • continuing staff involvement in JDRF fundraising efforts.
"We also see the partnership as an avenue for developing other initiatives that will take support for JDRF's research efforts to another level, and improve the day-to-day management of the disease," Mr Savvides said.

"Our vision is to provide leadership in health and wellbeing, so it makes sense that any community activities we support should focus on increasing the health of the Australian community.

"As a non-profit organisation, we need to be prudent in the management of our members' contributions, particularly in regard to the type of community activities we support.

"We are a health fund, and as such, have directed much of our community energies to supporting national health issues. As well as juvenile diabetes, we are also working with leading national organisations to reduce the risk of heart disease and impact of asthma on the community.

"Hopefully, through Medibank Private's support and that of other organisations, a cure for juvenile diabetes is within reach."

Backgrounder �
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) 
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's mission is "To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research." JDRF is the world's leading non-profit, non-governmental contributor of funds to diabetes research, funding an estimated 35% of all type 1 diabetes related research globally.

The Foundation was established in the US in 1970 by parents of children with juvenile diabetes. Over the past 32 years JDRF has raised more than US$900 million for diabetes research. Through this level of funding, JDRF has played a key role in setting the world's diabetes research agenda to find a cure. The Foundation has been instrumental in virtually every major breakthrough in diabetes research since 1970.

JDRF has three major research goals - to restore normal blood glucose levels; to prevent and reverse diabetes-related complications, and to prevent diabetes and its recurrence. To achieve its mission, JDRF collaborates with all diabetes stakeholders, including individuals with diabetes and their families, world-leading diabetes researchers and academic institutions, foundations, corporations, donors, volunteers, government agencies, biotechnology companies and pharmaceutical companies.

JDRF was established in Australia in 1982. Since its inception it has invested almost AUD$40 million in Australian diabetes research, with $10 million committed in 2002 alone. JDRF raises funds through the annual "Walk to Cure Diabetes," Gala Dinners, community events, advocacy and private donations. JDRF receives no federal funding.

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes is a life-long disorder that strikes both children and adults. While the causes aren't fully understood, it occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, removing a person's ability to produce insulin.

  • To stay alive, people with Type 1 diabetes must take multiple insulin injections daily and test their blood sugar by pricking their fingers for blood four or more times per day. While trying to balance insulin injections with food intake, people with Type 1 diabetes must be constantly prepared for potential hypoglycaemic (low blood sugar) and hyperglycaemic (high blood sugar) reactions, which can be life threatening.
  • Unlike the more common Type 2 diabetes, it cannot be managed by changes to diet or lifestyle. While insulin allows a person to stay alive, it does not cure diabetes nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating effects, including kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, amputations, heart attack and stroke. Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and there is no cure.
  • Australia has one of the highest rates of Type 1 diabetes in the world. Over 100,000 Australians live with this difficult disease, which represents around 10-15% of all people with diabetes. There are over 750 new cases each year, the majority children and young adults. However, Type 1 diabetes can strike children as young as 10 weeks old.
  • Diabetes affects almost every organ in the body. Most people who have had Type 1 diabetes for 20 years will suffer from severe health problems including:
    • Kidney Disease: One in three people with diabetes will develop kidney failure and require a transplant.
    • Cardiovascular Disease: People with diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than the general population.
    • Blindness: Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in adults aged 20-60 years.
    • Nerve Damage: About 60-70% of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nerve damage, leading to loss of sensation in hands and feet, leg ulcers and impaired function of organs such as the heart, eye, stomach, bladder and penis.
    • Amputation: Diabetes is the most common cause of amputation that is not the result of an accident.
  • These alarming statistics occur in spite of modern medical and pharmaceutical technology to treat and manage diabetes. The only solution is a cure.

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