Calls for kidney disease screening program

The number of Australian children with type 1 diabetes is already high by international standards, but the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates the number will jump a further 10 per cent by 2013.

The findings come amid calls for annual kidney screening tests to pick up the early signs of kidney disease helping those with type 2 or adult-onset diabetes.

Australian children to the age of 14 already have an unenviable rate of type 1 diabetes. In 2008, 138 children per 100,000 were counted as having the disease.

AIHW spokeswoman Anne-Marie Waters says the situation is going to get worse.

“We’ve also projected the prevalence to 2013 and predicted that it will rise by about 10 per cent by that time, so the rates we are predicting will actually rise from about 140 cases per 100,000 children to about 153 cases per 100,000 children,” she said.

Ms Waters says it is difficult to say why there has been a rise.

“I think the diabetes experts believe that especially with the increase in diabetes in recent decades that environmental changes are driving the increase in type 1 diabetes,” she said.

“So that is things like diet, early exposure to cows milk, viruses which could be linked to children being exposed to less infections at an early age now than they were years ago because we are all so hygiene focused, and also vitamin D deficiency is another thing.”

Type 1 diabetes only accounts for only 5 per cent of diabetes in Australia. The rest is adult-onset or type 2 diabetes and the numbers there are alarming as well.

Kidney Australia medical director Dr Tim Mathew says it is an escalating problem.

“Projections are for it to increase as a problem to about 145 per cent more in 10 years’ time,” he said.

“We already know the percentage of dialysis patients with diabetes has gone up from 5 per cent to 44 per cent across Australia in the last 25 years.”

Kidney Australia commissioned a report from Deloitte Access Economics to assess the cost effectiveness of an annual screening program for kidney disease.

Dr Mathew says the report calls for an annual screening program for type 2 diabetes.

“The cost effectiveness around that is remarkably positive and in number terms, it is about the same as or exceeds the cost effectiveness of breast cancer screening,” he said.

Dr Mathew says screening is vital to find signs of disease early.

He says Kidney Australia does not have a view as to how the screening program should be funded.

“All we know is that it is not expensive. In our report it suggests that the cost for Australia will be in the small millions rather than the multi-millions,” he said.

Dr Mathew says making the right lifestyle choices is the best way to prevent kidney disease.

“We see that as difficult but achievable but the longer-term solution, the short-term solution and for those impacted already caught up in the problem, they need to find out if they’ve got kidney disease and do something about it,” he said.

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