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17th March 2022 Latest News Indigenous Health

Closing the diabetes gap in Aboriginal Australians

Indigenous researcher

The Hospital Research Foundation Group is proud to be supporting the largest, most comprehensive study of diabetes and its complications in Aboriginal Australians, to help improve prevention, treatment and management of diabetes in this community.

The five-year $1.25 million study is analysing the family history, demographics, behaviours, psychosocial issues and genomics – and their relationship with eye, heart, kidney and blood vessel disease – among almost 1400 Aboriginal people from across South Australia.

Led by Professor Alex Brown from SAHMRI, the study also aims to identify the role of genomic research (the study of genes) in understanding why Aboriginal people experience such high rates of diabetes.

“Each participant has undertaken a comprehensive screening assessment including a blood test, ECG (to evaluate the heart), clinical exam and questionnaires as part of understanding the burden and patterns of disease,” Prof Brown said.

“They are asked about their family history of Type 2 diabetes, whether they were exposed to gestational diabetes or have known diabetes-related complications in their family.

“The behavioural factors we look at include diet, physical activity, sedentary time and smoking status. The psychosocial assessment involves a depression screening tool and other items that serve to detect chronic stress and quality of life.”

Prof Brown’s study group has now created detailed profiles (known as phenotyping) of the participants’ key characteristics including diabetes, kidney, eye, heart and vascular complications, and social and demographic risk markers.

“For the first time, we can uniquely characterise the social, clinical and biological risk factors that contribute to diabetes and its complications for this population,” Prof Brown said.

“We are also engaging with key partners to progress understandings in precision medicine and to enable in-depth investigations of genomic predictors for Type 2 diabetes within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“I wish to extend a huge thank you to The Hospital Research Foundation Group for enabling this important work, which will ultimately help us close the gap in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are four times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

This Close The Gap Day, The Hospital Research Foundation Group is proud to shine a spotlight on the work being done to reduce concerning health trends for Indigenous Australians.