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World Diabetes Day poster.

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Health expert says World Diabetes Day is especially important for Pacific peoples

Dr 'Ofa Dewes says the day is vital in raising awareness for managing the chronic disease that affects over 300,000 New Zealanders.

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Aui'a Vaimaila Leatinu'u
10 November 2023, 1:50pm
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The Tongan Health Society says World Diabetes Day next Tuesday is an especially important day for Aotearoa, Māori and Pacific peoples.

Board member and researcher Dr 'Ofa Dewes works at the Langimalie Research Centre in East Auckland.

Dewes says the day is important for acknowledging diabetes' impact, especially on Māori and Pacific peoples.

"We have the special role of supporting the many people in New Zealand who work in our clinics and hospitals," Dewes says.

"But also not forgetting families and especially Māori and Pacific peoples who are living with type two and type one diabetes," she says.

According to Te Whatu Ora more than 300,000 people live with diabetes, mostly type two.

They also report that diabetes among Māori and Pacific populations in Aotearoa are three times higher than other ethnic groups.

The World Health Organisation also reported that in 2019 diabetes led to 1.5 million deaths, with 48% of those being under the age of 70.

The World Diabetes Day campaign is one of the largest awareness campaigns, reaching up to one billion people worldwide.

Co-researcher Dr Fulton Shannon says the message for this year is "know your risk and know your response.

"It's important that people are aware of their health status as it relates to whether they're pre-diabetic [or] at-risk of developing diabetes," Shannon says.

"Which will then give them the information they need to take the best decisions on their health," he says.

Dewes says the day not only raises awareness but encourages people not to give up.

"Ensuring that we can think about what we're doing, how else we can improve, and how can our research contribute to better health practices [to] better support people living with diabetes," she says.

"And also to hold each other to account because unless we do that we may not achieve better health outcomes especially for our Māori and Pacific peoples."

Dewes says an example of raising awareness is their engagement with the Tuvaluan community in West Auckland who gathers every Tuesday.

She says their weekly gathering luckily aligns with World Diabetes Day which creates an opportunity for Dewes to share their research and advocate for better healthcare literacy there.

Dewes will also attend the Tongan Health Society Covid vaccination event tomorrow at the Free Church of Tonga in Māngere for further advocacy.

"This is our creative way of taking research into the community and taking advantage of every opportunity to connect with our communities, raise health awareness and celebrate our collective efforts," she says.

"Not just us but with the nurses, doctors other members of the workforce and the community itself."

Watch the full interview below via PMN Tonga's Facebook:

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