People living in the lower socio-economic South Auckland area are twice as likely to suffer from diabetes as those who live in the more affluent areas of Epsom, North Shore and central Auckland, a study has found.
The study conducted by the University of Auckland, and published today in the NZ Medical Journal, found that geography played a part in the distribution of diabetes.
The study leader Daniel Exeter from Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the university said there was an inequity in health outcomes across electorates and contributing factors include levels of deprivation and access to different types of food.
"Research has shown that areas of high deprivation have much more ready availability to convenience food."
The study analysed data from 63,000 people diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes across the region in 2011 who were aged 30 years or over.
The highest rate of diabetes was 17.3 percent in Mangere and the lowest was 3.2 percent on the North Shore even after adjusting for age, gender and ethnicity. The prevalence of the condition in the Auckland region was close to the national average at 8.5 percent.
There was marked variation in diabetes by ethnicity with rates of 10.3 percent among Maori, 15.8 percent among Pacific and 6.3 percent among New Zealand Europeans.
Dr Exeter said the difference in incomes was a contributing factor, for example the North Shore has a median income of $35,000 compared with $20,500 in Mangere, "that in itself indicates that there's more opportunities in the North Shore to purchase good healthy food and perhaps maybe less on the convenience food."
He said that the overall results may not come as a surprise, but it highlighted that there were differences within electorates and the problem needs more advocacy from elected representatives.
"I think this is one opportunity for both researchers and public to go back to their politicians and say this is unacceptable, why is it that a drive from the airport to the North Shore results in such a huge difference in a really debilitating health outcome?"
Dr Exeter said there were some areas in Counties Manukau that had a lower prevalence of diabetes and some have higher and using electorates is a way to exemplify that.
He said he hoped people would use the data to encourage their politicians to look at ways to improve public health.
An example of this is the levels of obesity in relation to the proximity of junk food outlets which Dr Exeter said had been highlighted by the media recently, "using that information there was a big drive to encourage councils for example to have a role perhaps in regulating the food environment around schools."
He said his study is another way of looking at patterns around the community and see what can be done to encourage change.