Diabetes jumps to 'top 10' problems managed

Diabetes is quickly moving up the scale of problems most commonly managed by doctors each year in general practice- according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Diabetes has jumped from number 12 to the eighth most common problem managed over the last ten years.

General practice activity in Australia 1999-2000 details about 100,000 doctor-patient encounters from a sample of 1000 GPs. It gives an insight into why people visit their GP, the health problems GPs manage, and what types of treatments general practice patients receive.

Director of the AIHW's General Practice Statistics and Classification Unit, Professor Helena Britt, said the significant increase in the management of diabetes was probably due to higher GP and community awareness of the need to detect and control the disease.

'Recent awareness campaigns and establishment of the AIHW's National Diabetes Register mean that people are now helping to complete a much-needed picture of diabetes in Australia, Professor Britt said. 'There's also the fact that many Divisions of General Practice are running diabetes shared care programs so there's a greater awareness among doctors and this certainly plays a part in early detection and management of the disease.

'Broadly, GPs today appear to be the gatekeepers in our health care system. They handle a wide range of problems every day-from the ongoing management of high blood pressure, to treating common colds, and bronchitis-to managing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and cancer.'

Other findings from General practice activity in Australia 1999-00 include:

  • The problems most commonly managed by doctors were high blood pressure (8.4 per 100 encounters), the common cold (7.2 per 100), vaccination (4.6 per 100), depression, and asthma (3.4 per 100).
  • Antibiotics were the most frequently prescribed drugs by doctors-they accounted for 17% of all drugs prescribed.
  • Half of all patients were either overweight or obese; 9% were underweight.
  • About 1 in 7 patients visited their doctor for a check-up, while 1 in 10 visits were for a prescription. About 1 in 25 patients see their GP for a vaccination-half of these are for the flu.
  • The report comes from the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation And Care of Health) program, which is conducted by the University of Sydney in collaboration with the AIHW.

21 December 2000


Further information: A/Professor Helena Britt, tel. 02 9845 8150 (bh) or 0411 197 938 (mob).
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.