03/12/2009 - 00:00

Counting the cost of diabetes

03/12/2009 - 00:00

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THE Diabetes Research Foundation of WA has embarked on a $1.2 million fundraising initiative to finance research designed to tackle the escalating health and financial toll of diabetes in Western Australia.

THE Diabetes Research Foundation of WA has embarked on a $1.2 million fundraising initiative to finance research designed to tackle the escalating health and financial toll of diabetes in Western Australia.

The initiative was launched ahead of World Diabetes Day (November 14), and the foundation hopes to reach the target within the next 12 months, and channelling the money into a new scholarship program funding local research projects.

Called the Alex Cohen Diabetes Scholarship – named in honour of the foundation’s former president – the money will be provided to students each year for the next 20 years.

With a career spanning more than 50 years, Mr Cohen has been a leader in the diabetes field in WA, helping establish the foundation, and more recently the internationally recognised Centre for Diabetes Research in Perth.

The scholarship in his name represents Mr Cohen’s belief in supporting and nurturing young researchers and retaining those researchers who may have fresh approaches to solving the diabetes epidemic.

Diabetes Research Foundation chairman Erica Smyth said the aim was to supplement funding of the Australian Postgraduate Awards for students undertaking diabetes research, in any discipline, at the University of Western Australia, beginning next year.

WA Business News understands that, if the APA stipend is increased to $22,500 a year from 2010 as forecast, the maximum 75 per cent supplementation allowed by the foundation will be $16,875 a year.

“Most full-time students can’t survive on just $22,500 a year so if we are to get the top echelon of students in WA, we need to give them a chance for full-time study, not work,” Dr Smyth said.

The foundation will embark on a widespread marketing campaign to raise the funds, directed at individuals rather than corporations.

Dr Smyth said the foundation hoped to use a targeted mail-out and word-of-mouth to spread its message for funding.

But she also urged the corporate community to invest in the scholarship fund.

“Diabetes packs an enormous financial punch on the WA economy, costing about $1.2 billion a year, and, on top of that, the health and emotional impact on those living with diabetes and their families is massive. It’s these effects we’re keen to help combat, and research is the key,” she said.

“Our quest is to cure diabetes but, in the meantime, conduct research into the many complications of diabetes like retinopathy (blindness), kidney failure and many others.

“If we can reduce the complications associated with diabetes and improve the quality of life for those with diabetes we will be making a huge difference.

“Complications from diabetes should be a cause close to the heart of many businesses – they can now help ensure the health of both their own workforce and the broader community by contributing to the fund.”

The foundation projects that more than 180,000 adults in WA have diabetes, but only half of those will have been formally diagnosed, with the other half unaware they are living with the disease.

Based at Royal Perth Hospital, the Diabetes Research Foundation is one of the WA’s longest running diabetes research funding groups.

In 2008, it funded applied research programs addressing the need for further understanding into the mental and emotional effects for people living with diabetes, particularly children and adolescents, as well as a number of fundamental research initiatives directed at complications and causes.

 

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