It may surprise you to know that the Australian government has invested almost $300 million dollars since 2000 towards research and clinical trials to improve quality of life and life expectancy among patients with Type 1 diabetes; which affects approximately 120,000 Australians.
Although the number of individuals with T1DM is relatively small within Australia compared to other high-profile diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes (1 million cases in 2015), and asthma (2.3 million in 2011-12), T1DM is disproportionately diagnosed in the young. In 2000-2003, diabetes was the fourth most common chronic disease children were hospitalised for, at a rate of 37.6 per 100,000; behind only asthma, cancer and epilepsy.
From 2000-2014, the National Health and Medical Research Foundation (NHMRC) alone invested $202 million, accompanied by $30.8 million from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, $20 million from the Department of Health (DOH) specifically for an insulin-producing islet transplantation program, and $5 million from the DOH for the Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network. A further $32.2 million has been committed by the NHMRC for the next five year period.
T1DM is a national priority area because of the high overall burden of the disease in mortality, morbidity, and intangible costs. The Australian government spends around $211 million per year on direct health care costs, not to mention other direct and indirect costs, such as carer's time and lost income. Advances made in monitoring and treating T1DM reduces health care costs to Australia through fewer hospital admissions, fewer co-morbidities, and the potential for individuals and carers to experience fewer days lost from work. Every dollar invested in health and medical research in Australia is estimated to return, on average, $2.17 in health benefits.
Although the ultimate intention may be to prevent and cure T1DM, these breakthroughs are still many years away. Investing in medical research to improve the lives of people living with T1DM has immediate dividends in reducing the direct and indirect costs of the disease to individuals, their communities, and Australia.