That Seanad Éireann:
acknowledges the public health concerns surrounding diabetes and its increasing prevalence;
recognises the work already done in the area of strategic policy development to tackle diabetes;
endorses the efforts being made to highlight the benefits of healthier lifestyle behaviours as a means of preventing this disease; and
encourages the Health Service Executive to continue to develop and roll out models for the ongoing treatment and management of the disease and its complications.
I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Áine Brady, and thank her for her presence. A few short years ago during the period of the wonderful Celtic tiger, which we all know is dead, the mantra throughout the country was "location, location, location". It was all about investing in a property and which area would garner the best return on an investment. Instead of "location, location, location", the new mantra is "lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle". Current lifestyle patterns in this country form an issue of considerable concern. As the Minister of State well knows from travelling around the country and from her job, lifestyle patterns are storing up problems for us as a nation.
I was not surprised to see the seven factors that are the commonest causes of type 2 diabetes. The first is high blood pressure, the second, tobacco, the third, alcohol, the fourth, high blood cholesterol, the fifth, being overweight, the sixth, a low fruit and vegetable intake, and the seventh, physical inactivity. Some are guilty of all of these and others of a few. Up to 90% of the 7,000 cases of type 2 diabetes could have been prevented by taking all or even some of the seven factors into account. It is important to note that type 2 diabetes can be prevented.
I would never have considered diabetes to be a killer disease but it is. I compliment the Diabetes Federation of Ireland which from time to time sends us e-mails. One of its most recent e-mails I received related to the cost of diabetic foot disease in my constituency and the need for a national foot screening programme to reduce the number of costly foot ulcers and resulting lower limb amputations caused by poorly managed, undiagnosed diabetes.
Diabetes is the commonest undiagnosed problem, especially in men. A cohort of patients are prone to various diseases but late onset type 2 diabetes is very common in men in their 50s, 60s and 70s, depending on their lifestyle. I was surprised to read that approximately 7,000 foot and leg ulcers were recorded by the Health Service Executive between 2005 and 2009. Each ulcer cost between €9,000 and €30,000 to treat. What was even more staggering was that the average hospital stay of each of those patients was 21 days. A total of 1,500 of those ulcers, which are also prone to gangrene, led to lower limb amputation in the same period. Approximately 70% of those who have an amputation will probably have the corresponding limb on the other side of their body amputated within 18 months. If one was in the most horrific car crash one could imagine what it would be like to wake up and find one was in a wheelchair and no longer able to walk, or that one's leg was so badly crushed that one had to have it amputated. At least one would be able to say it might have been God's will and that one got away with losing a leg in a severe car crash instead of a life.
Diabetes is brought on by lifestyle. Therefore, changing lifestyle would save many people from an early death. The House debated the incidence of diabetes in April or May 2009, at which time I mentioned the case of a close friend of the Minister of State and a woman whose company everyone had enjoyed thoroughly, the late Senator Kate Walsh. Everyone knew Kate was a diabetic since she regularly raised the issue on the Order of Business and contributed to debates such as this. She got down on her knees and pleaded with people to change their lifestyle. She was loved in the House and always stated that, if she had had a healthier lifestyle and not been overweight, she could have avoided diabetes. I thought of her today while scribbling a few words. I am sure that, wherever she is in floating around the lovely clouds up above, she will smile and tell us to keep going. She would be particularly proud of the Minister of State present. For her sake and that of all sufferers, we must do whatever we can to push the HSE in the right direction to initiate a screening programme. Consider the lives that would be saved as a result. During our last debate on the subject I understand the Minister of State, Deputy Áine Brady, told the House that a screening programme had been rolled out in the west. How is it progressing and how has it minimised the terrible effects of diabetes with which sufferers must live?
Between 2005 and 2009 a total of €239 million was spent on treating complications associated with diabetic foot disease alone. The Minister of State and I know that 40% to 70% of this amount could be saved in three years. Rolling out the service nationally would cost €1.5 million. We have all been asked to speak to the Minister of State about the roll-out. This question is relevant, given that we are in the run-up to the budget and that money is tight. In that regard, we all had a rude awakening yesterday. Sitting across the floor from me is Senator Twomey who is involved with his party in the talks on the economy and the forthcoming budget. I saw him last night. I am sure he would agree that anything that could be done to save money and, more importantly, lives should be done. Since the figure for cuts in the next four years is €15 billion, we know that €1 billion or a little more will be cut from the health budget, but could the Minister of State and her colleagues, the Minister of State, Deputy Moloney, and the Minister, Deputy Harney, see their way to putting a screening programme in place for people at risk contracting this terrible disease?
From previous debates on health and screening for diseases, I know that men are probably the worst in looking after themselves. Women are more inclined to attend a general practitioner or a GP's nurse when they have concerns, whereas men are inclined to put health matters on the long finger. The television advertisements on the effects of a stroke — we are told to dial 999 or whatever the number is when we see the signs — are scary. Were one to refer to the seven lifestyle factors I mentioned as potential killers, men would try to reduce their level of exposure to them.
The Dublin city marathon was held on Monday. Some of us were in our cars looking at all of the bodies running on the roads. Quite a few Senators participated in the event. However, people run throughout the year. Apart from Members on my side of the House, Senator McFadden also ran in the marathon. Well done to her.