The realities of ageing

When you get to a certain age, you start to notice the little things more, particularly in relation to your health. Gone are the days of running 5km without any training, or being able to see a car registration plate from 100m, or even being able to stand up from your desk without feeling a slight ache in your back. Age is something that happens slowly, but when you stop to think about it you wonder how it crept up on you so quickly.

Last week, I took advantage of the SiSu Wellness Health Station that was fixed, in-store at our Elizabeth Street shop. The machine is an easy to use, self-service contraption designed to give you instant health results. I used SiSu to analyse my weight, height, BMI, heart rate & blood pressure – this generated an immediate health report with guidelines around where I should be for my age. It was pretty revealing. I’m a healthy guy; I pride myself on living a well-informed healthy life, yet I found myself in the grey area for some of my results. If I don’t take control of my lifestyle now, the results could snowball.

SiSu emailed the report to me, which prompted me to make an appointment with my GP. I am originally from Sydney and have spent a lot of time on the beach, which inevitably means, exposure to the sun. There is a history of melanoma in my family and I make it a priority each year to have my skin checked. This year was the year that I have been expecting for a while. I was told that I have melanoma skin cells on my back and will have to undergo urgent surgery to have these removed. Although manageable and nothing too serious, the point is – without committing to my health and making regular check-ups a priority, it has the potential to be.

All of this got me thinking. I feel great and I look physically well, but that doesn’t mean I am. Some health issues sit beneath the surface. It is important to prioritise your health, particularly as you get older. You have done all the hard work and made it to this point in life, so make sure you do everything you can to keep going!

I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to do two things. Keep your eyes peeled for SiSu Wellness Health Stations across Victoria and take part in a free health check (if you didn’t get the chance to visit the one at the DA-Vic store on Elizabeth St). And secondly, be sun smart and don’t ignore any signs of skin cancer – getting checked is painless and could be a blessing in disguise.

Further information:
Diabetes Australia – Victoria are a program partner of the 2015 Sons of the West campaign – a Western Bulldogs community health initiative supporting men living and working in Melbourne’s West to lead healthier lives.

From our involvement in the campaign we were given the opportunity to house a health check station within the retail shop. The SiSu Wellness Health Station is a unique, Australian-developed tool for engaging the public in managing their health. The easy to use, self service station is able to calculate key metrics such as blood pressure, body mass index & body weight, % body fat, heart rate, and height and weight.

For more information on skin cancer and how to be checked, visit

Michael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own.

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That Sugar Film

This morning, I started my day at the movies.

That Sugar Film is a new film that recounts Australian Damon Gameau’s experiment of eating a high sugar diet for sixty days. The catch is that these foods are not things like soft drink, lollies or chocolate – foods we know to be full of sugar and not particularly healthy options. They are foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’, such as low fat yoghurt, muesli bars, juices and cereals.

When I heard about this film, I gave a little yawn and rolled my eyes. Hadn’t Morgan Spurlock done this more than ten years ago with Super Size Me when he ate nothing but McDonald’s for thirty days? Surely this is old news!

The difference is that Morgan Spurlock’s experiment was a little improbable. There are very few people who would actually eat MacDonald’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every single day. However, Damon Gameau would actually eat the average quantity of sugar most people consumed on a daily basis.

That average is 40 teaspoons.

That sugar film pic

The other thing that was of interest is that Damon did not increase his overall calorie consumption – that remained the same. He was just getting his calories from different foods; specifically, low fat foods.

Over the sixty day period, Damon gained about eight kilograms, and his waist circumference increased ten centimetres.  Blood tests conducted at the beginning, end and throughout the experiment showed significant decrease in health markers. The diet he was consuming affected his mood and ability to concentrate.

Damon is not demonising sugar, nor blaming sugar for the epidemic of metabolic health conditions faced by an increasing number of people. But he is questioning whether the ‘low-fat message’ we have been told is healthy since the 1950s, is actually the right message.

That Sugar Film is beautifully made. It is entertaining and interesting to watch. And it’s thought provoking. There are a few sensationalist moments I could have done without – I really didn’t need to see a young man from Kentucky having all his teeth extracted after they had been destroyed and decayed from years of drinking Mountain Dew – but shock is currency and can drive home a point.

I struggle watching films and documentaries like this. I am constantly amazed and shocked at just how little people know about nutrition. I know that saying this has the potential of making me sound arrogant, but when Damon started listing the foods that people consider to be healthy, I shook my head in disbelief. Who in their right mind would think that drinking a liquid breakfast of Nutri-Grain in a box is a healthy way to start the day?

But he is right. People do think that a muesli bar or bottle of fruit juice is healthy. They see granola bars and smoothies as being a healthy choice – frequently because these foods are labelled as low fat with no consideration of their sugar content.

However, I am not the target audience. And neither were the healthcare professionals or public health experts in the room.
The challenge is getting the message out to the wider audience and to cut through the marketing palaver and the mixed health messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It can be so confusing to understand what makes a certain type of food a ‘healthy choice’, or to understand just what is in a jar of pasta sauce. It is unbelievably difficult to cut through the health messages that are presented from reputable sources, let alone the propaganda we are fed by celebrities pushing their latest ‘health’ craze.

We need to make things as easy as possible for people to make healthy choices. Why are we still making things so difficult?

One more thing:

Predominantly, my work is about type 1 diabetes. I live with type 1 diabetes and I write a blog about type 1 diabetes.

This film is not about type 1 diabetes. It’s actually not about type 2 diabetes either. It’s about the health of all people.

There are times that the word ‘diabetes’ is used without a clarifier, and while I know that greatly annoys people, in the grand scheme of things, it is not relevant in this film.

My next point is in the same vein. Development of type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with the food we eat, the quantity of sugar we consume or whether we were born under a full moon. Again, that is not what this film is about.

Please, put all of those things aside. This is about public health and the health of all people. We need to take our diabetes blinkers off for just one minute and look at the bigger picture.


That Sugar Film will be in theatres around Australia from March 1. Diabetes Australia is a strategic partner supporting and promoting the film.

RENZASRenza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.

Renza blogs regularly at Diabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes and you can also follow her on Twitter @RenzaS

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Kids and junk food don’t play nicely together

If you could see the smiles that light up the faces of children as they enter Skinners Adventure Playground in South Melbourne you would not believe they have been told to check their chips and chocolate at the gate. That’s because junk food is the furthest thing from these young minds as they hurry in, excited to greet their friends and the resident chooks.adventure playground blog picLocals were bemused by media attention over a so-called ‘new’ junk food ‘ban’ in the playground. This hardly seemed newsworthy, as parents and children have been enjoying this beloved playground, junk food free for a little over six years without any fuss.

There were the predictable cries of ‘Nanny State’ … Some people felt that this was a move by the City of Port Phillip Council to take away parents’ rights to make decisions about what their kids eat.

A prominent Child Psychologist argued that banning junk food in a playground will deter kids from wanting to play. He had obviously never visited this play space, which boasts a mixture of slides, ropes, bikes, natural features, a rabbit, veggie patch and a basketball court. Getting children to leave the playground is a more valid concern for parents. Kids can’t get enough!

In reality, the junk food free environment is a draw card for local families whose children are treated to free healthy lunches and snacks that compliment nutrition education programs run by Council.

For an hour or two, while their children play at Skinners, parents can rest assured they will not be pestered for junk food, a rare luxury given there a very few places you can take children without being surrounded by junk food and junk food marketing.

Associating healthy food with playtime is a creative way for kids to develop a positive relationship with nutritious food. On the other hand, regularly associating junk food and playtime is counterproductive; it sends the message to kids that if they are active, they can eat whatever they like.

The City of Port Phillip should be applauded for putting in place initiatives that promote healthy eating, safeguard children’s health, and support parents in making healthy choices. It would be great to see a similar junk food policy applied in other playgrounds and other councils across Australia.

Dimity Gannon isThe Parents Jury logo The Parents’ Jury Campaign Manager. You can follow The Parents Jury on Twitter @theparentsjury, Facebook The Parents Jury or visit the website

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International Migrants Day

I am a proud migrant.

In late 1978 I arrived in Melbourne after spending some time in a refugee camp in Malaysia. I was one of the boat people who fled Vietnam. I was lucky to be accepted by the Australian government to settle here in Melbourne.

In the refugee camp I was inspired by some nurses who were volunteering their time to help us and I decided that I wanted to become a nurse so I could help people.  I worked very hard to fulfil my dream and finally in 1983 I graduated as a registered nurse from Royal Children’s hospital.

I am grateful to Australia for giving me a second chance in life. My way of giving back is by doing my job as a nurse.

I decided to specialise in diabetes education due to my personal background: I have a family history of diabetes. I reflected on what my grandmother and mother went through with their diabetes. Their lack of understanding and management prompted me to take a diabetes education course and I became a qualified diabetes nurse educator. Sadly, I could not help my mother as she passed away the year I finished my course.

Diabetes education became my passion. I know the work I do makes a difference. I am a proud migrant and I feel proud to be part of Diabetes Australia – Vic.

Yung (far right) pictured with her colleagues yung runningcompeting in the ‘Run Melbourne’ fun run, representing DA–Vic.

Yung Nguyen is a Diabetes Nurse Educator at Diabetes Australia – Vic. She is sharing her story to celebrate International Migrant Day.

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Kicking the health ‘kick’

It’s almost November and I am in the midst of the Diabetes Australia Walk to Work campaign (a national initiative to encourage all Australians to introduce walking into their day). It’s a simple concept to introduce more physical activity into your day – you can park your car a little further away from the station, or get off the tram one step early.

Research of up to 400,000 people has found that walking an extra 15 minutes each day can help extend life expectancy by up to three years, while reducing the risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes as well as increase mental wellbeing.

While walking is an easy way to make life more active, with the fast-pace of today’s world, it can be a less favourable option than the quick and comfortable car or public transport ride.

These days with a 24 hour news cycle we see and hear of more health, nutrition, exercise and fitness stories than ever. With so many conflicting theories of how to get healthier, and not knowing what news you hear is credible, it can be confusing and sometimes it feels easier to ignore it all.

Or, sometimes the sensationalist messages you hear sink in and all of the sudden you’re on a health ‘kick’. We’ve all been on them, but how long do they really last for? Even the use of the word ‘kick’ implies a short and quick action, rather than a longer-term change in habit that has longevity.

Walking is simple, it’s easy, it is part of your everyday life and can be an effective form of exercise if you make it worthwhile. I was particularly reminded of this on Monday, as I trudged to work through some of the worst rainfall I’ve seen in a long time. I arrived at work – yes, a little wet – but I still did it! It wasn’t hard or tedious, it was just part of my day. That’s why walking is part of my daily routine and will continue to be, not just for now, but for as long as I can.

You too, can sign up for Diabetes Australia Walk to Work and encourage those around you to get up and get moving!

Michael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own.

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Diabetes research funding – simply not enough

Last Friday, the successful National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant recipients were announced.

Let’s start with the good news.

Funding for 848 grants was announced, totalling over $580 million across a wide range of health conditions. This includes project grants, partnership projects, Centres of Research Excellence and other Fellowships and grants.

This is great stuff. Medical research is essential and we should be encouraging more dollars being delivered to the very clever clinicians, researchers and scientists carrying out this important work. ‘Cures not Cuts’ is a motto we should be thinking about all the time – not only when there is a real or perceived threat to funding dollars.

Diabetes received $54 million in grants for 60 research projects.

Here is the not so good news.

Diabetes received $54 million in grants for 60 research projects.

That’s right. The good news is also the bad news. Whilst it is terrific that 60 research projects received funding and $54 million is not to be sneezed at, I do not believe that it is enough.

Cancer received funding of $89.9 million for 156 projects, and cardiovascular disease $82.4 million across 106 grants. All of these are worthy and should be funded. Make no mistake – I am not saying that money should not be given to cancer or CVD research. Of course I am not.

I am told that when funding announcements are made, there is also dissatisfaction amongst the cancer community, with many ‘lower profile’ cancers often being overlooked. Ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancer are frequently considered the poor cousins of the cancer world, despite significant numbers of people being affected by – and dying from – these cancers.

Of course, we can argue that the money is never enough. We can argue that we are all self-interested and only care about our own condition or the condition affecting our family and friends and to a degree, that is absolutely true.

Please understand, I am not saying that diabetes is worse than any other disease or health condition. Any regular readers of this blog will know that I absolutely do not subscribe to the ‘my condition is worse than yours’ arguments.

But if we are to believe that the magnitude of the ‘diabetes problem’ – and there is some pretty compelling evidence to support that it will indeed be the largest health burden in Australia by 2017 – then surely we need to see a bigger investment into diabetes research. We need diabetes to be’ top of mind’ as the number one health concern.

The results of last Friday’s funding announcements reinforce what I wrote here about diabetes having an image problem when it comes to funding – and fundraising. With more and more people affected, surely this should be reflected in increased funding for research, programs and services.

We’re not seeing that.


At the risk of this outing me as someone with a case of sour grapes, I should acknowledge that I am listed as an Associate Investigator on a grant application that was not successful. Yes, I am disappointed. But this certainly was not the only diabetes grant that was unsuccessful. Many other very worthwhile applications faced a similar fate.

Congratulations to all the successful applicants.

Renza Scibilia is the Manager of Type 1 Diabetes and Community Programs at DA–Vic. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1998. The opinions and thoughts expressed in her occasional blogs are her own.

Renza blogs regularly at Diabetogenic about real life with type 1 diabetes and you can also follow her on Twitter @RenzaS This post was re-blogged from Diabetogenic after consent from the author.

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A milestone partnership

Yesterday I was in Sydney for the launch of the Diabetes Australia and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) Partnership. It was big.  Over eighty people gathered to hear about the details of this milestone partnership, including CBA’s very own CEO, Ian Narev.

It’s big because not only is this the largest partnership that Diabetes Australia has secured on a national scale, but because we have been working for a number of months to make this a reality. This partnership will bring opportunities for Diabetes Australia; from connecting with Commonwealth Bank of Australia customers; to potentially incorporating a health and wellbeing program into their employee benefit scheme; and building our brand recognition to strengthen our messages.

A particularly exciting element of the partnership is our involvement in the Executive Manager Talent Program (EMTP). The program involves 36 key Executive Managers from multiple Commonwealth Bank divisions, who will apply their diverse skills and expertise to develop strategies for a selected community focused organisation – this year, it’s us!

The diabetes epidemic is one of global proportions and, as an organisation, we must continue to lead the efforts to tackle the burden of diabetes in new and developing ways. The reality is that we cannot do this alone. The EMTP launch was yesterday and I am extremely excited by the talent that will be working for our cause and the possibilities they will present to us next year. Having such a diverse team of experts thinking about new opportunities and developing a strategy will strengthen the foundations of Diabetes Australia and help to secure a brighter future for diabetes.

A highlight of the day was listening to Ian Narev speak about the values of leadership and integrity. He shared personal stories of his own leadership journey which took a dramatic change in direction when simply asked ‘Do you love your job?’ His story stressed the fundamental principles of passion, continuous professional growth, being true to your instincts, and the importance of having fun throughout your career.

A particularly interesting point was made around the concept of “followership” – people are not led, they follow. Understanding the different strengths and styles within your team to inspire following, rather than leading without reflection, is something I will endeavour to replicate in my own leadership style.

The partnership is also significant for DA–Vic in many ways too. DA–Vic will benefit from state-based activities and heightened recognition for the brand and cause. To top it off, we have received a significant donation to support diabetes and enable the delivery of more diabetes education and awareness programs.

Overall, this is an exhilarating time for diabetes at a national and state level and I am proud to be part of it.

If you have any questions or feedback about the partnership please leave your comments below.

Michael Goldman is Deputy Chief Executive Officer at Diabetes Australia – Vic. You can follow him on Twitter @MGoldman_ the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are his own.

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