With over 4% of Australians now diagnosed with ‘Type 2 diabetes’ this chronic illness is now three times as common as it was 20 years ago, making it the fastest growing disease Australia faces. With so many Australian workers affected, the impact of diabetes in the workplace can be significant so let’s take a minute to understand what Type 2 diabetes is and how some simple workplace health initiatives can successfully aid in the prevention of its onset.
Diabetes and Workplace Health
Diabetes is a chronic condition where a person’s blood sugar levels rise or fall due to a lack of the hormone insulin. The sugar ‘glucose’ is the main source of fuel our bodies need for energy and is drawn from the foods we eat. In a non-diabetic person, insulin acts to control the glucose levels in the blood and keep them at a steady and safe level. Without insulin, or enough insulin, a diabetic person is at risk of having the glucose in their blood stream reach dangerous levels which if left untreated can cause fainting, seizures and even coma.
There are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1, known as insulin dependent or juvenile diabetes is less common than the Type 2, affecting only 10 to 15% of all sufferers. This rare form of diabetes is hereditary and not caused by poor lifestyle habits, although a healthy lifestyle is crucial in the management of the disease.
On the other hand, Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes that is sadly on the rise in Australia, is strongly linked to unhealthy lifestyle factors. Obesity, inactivity, smoking (due to elevated blood pressure) and poor nutrition have all been shown to be contributing factors in this rise in Type 2 diabetes and with so many young people now becoming diagnosed preventative strategies are more important than ever.
Diabetes Prevention in the Workplace
Many of the core corporate health program initiatives already work twofold to prevent and manage diabetes in the workplace. Firstly, the biometric health checks carried out as part of a workplace health program are an effective way of pre-emptively diagnosing an employee’s risk of developing diabetes so that preventative lifestyle changes can be put in place. Secondly, many of the basic health program initiatives directly address diabetes risk factors by encouraging employees to be more active, eat well, maintain a healthy weight and quit smoking.
Corporate health initiatives that aid in the prevention of diabetes in the workplace include:
• Cholesterol and blood pressure checks
• Nutrition consultations
• Health seminars
• Fitness campaigns and onsite fitness facilities such as a corporate gym
• Anti-smoking initiatives
• Health coaching
• Health Risk Appraisal (HRA)
• Team Challenges such as Chews to Change, Fitness Challenge and Outback Walkabout.
With a few basic lifestyle changes, many employees at risk of Type 2 diabetes will not only be able to prevent this debilitating illness but also feel fitter, happier and more energetic through the process.