Diabetes on the rise in Canterbury
Experts say rates of type 1 diabetes have reached epidemic levels amongst Canterbury school children.
And they say, despite extensive research, they still don't know why a child a fortnight is being diagnosed with the condition.
At a camp for children with type 1 diabetes, children are able to play and laugh, forgetting for a moment they all have a serious medical condition.
But it is a condition that means their young lives are ruled by injections and blood tests.
“I have to test my blood sugars at breakfast, dinner, supper and lunch usually,” says diabetes sufferer Danielle Hooper.
Clinical nurse Neil Owens says type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune deficiency that can affect anyone – young, old, fit or not. He says current rates of the disease in Canterbury are at epidemic levels, with one child a fortnight being diagnosed with the condition.
“We don't know why but we average between 25 to 30 each year,” he says. “We've had five in the last month.”
Since records began in Canterbury 40 years ago, the number of children being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes has increased three-fold.
“If you put a line through there, its clearly going up over time,” says diabetes researcher Jinny Willis.
But researchers still don't know why.
“There's a lot of effort going into collecting data and seeing trends and environmental factors, but at the moment we don't know what the cause is,” says Ms Willis.
She says a national diabetes register will be set up in the next couple of months to compare Canterbury’s figures with rest of the country.