What is diabetes?
For our bodies to work, we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. People with diabetes can’t convert sugar to energy efficiently. This leads to high levels of sugar in the blood, called hyperglycaemia.
Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, controls our blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin or your body becomes resistant to insulin.
There are different types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body's immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and require lifelong insulin replacement to survive. The disease can occur at any age, although it mostly occurs in children and young adults.
Type 2 diabetes is associated with hereditary factors and lifestyle risk factors. These include poor diet, not getting enough physical activity, and being overweight or obese. People with type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their condition through lifestyle changes. However, they may also need diabetes medications or insulin replacement to control blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy and usually disappears after the baby’s birth. Women who had gestational diabetes while pregnant are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.
See healthdirect for more information about diabetes.
What are we doing about diabetes?
We are addressing diabetes nationally. Several programs and initiatives help treat or manage diabetes-related problems. We fund research into diabetes, and maintain national monitoring and surveillance.
- We have developed the Australian National Diabetes Strategy 2021-2030 to prioritise the national response to diabetes.
- A review and refresh of the implementation plan which outlines priority actions for the Australian National Diabetes Strategy is soon to be undertaken.
- The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) provides subsidised products and support services to people with diabetes who register with the scheme. Diabetes Australia manages the NDSS through an agreement with us. NDSS Agents are appointed in each state and territory in Australia to provide NDSS services for both consumers and health professionals.
- We provide funding to support several NDSS programs:
- KeepSight, which reminds people with diabetes to get their eyes checked
- Foot Forward, which aims to prevent diabetes-related foot problems and amputations
- Diabetes in Schools, which delivers training for teachers and school staff. Training covers safe insulin administration and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose level) management
- MyDesmond, an online self-management program for people living with type 2 diabetes
- Type 2 and Me, an online education program for people living with type 2 diabetes
- BabySteps, an online program for women with previous gestational diabetes
- The AUSDRISK tool estimates your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years.
- The Living Guidelines in Diabetes Demonstration Project pilots the creation of a living evidence system. This system continually integrates research evidence with clinical and practice expertise. This ensures relevant, reliable, evidence-based guidelines are available to support practice and policy.
- We funded a Deakin University gestational diabetes research project. The project explores new ways to engage women with previous gestational diabetes in follow-up screening for type 2 diabetes.
- We fund the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to establish the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network.
- The Australian National Diabetes Audit reports on the auditing and benchmarking of diabetes services.
- The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidises medicines used to treat diabetes.
- The Medicare Benefits Schedule helps pay for patient care, including Chronic Disease Management plans.
- The Medical Research Future Fund and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fund research into diabetes.
- The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare supports national surveillance and monitoring of diseases, including diabetes.
See more chronic conditions resources.
State and territory contacts
For more information about your local service, visit your state or territory website.