Craig Bennett is a health economist by training (University of York) and a Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. He has held senior management positions in both the private and public health care sectors in Australia and overseas and has also worked for an international consulting firm and as an academic economist.
Craig took up his appointment as the CEO of Diabetes Victoria in March 2013. Prior to this, he had been the CEO of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne from May 2004 and the Chief Executive of the Sir
Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth from October 1998 until April 2004.
Craig has long been interested in the economics of health; in hospitals; and in how different parts of the health system connect – particularly from a patient’s point of view. This is particularly relevant to his work with diabetes, as a study published in the Medical Journal of Australia last year indicated that about one in four inpatients in Melbourne public hospitals had diabetes. Clearly, this is a wakeup call about an issue that needs urgent and coordinated action by all those involved in our public health care system. Craig is very focused on developing strategies to assist in meeting this challenge.
In this profile, Craig explains the importance of tackling diabetes now and the multi-faceted work of Diabetes Victoria.
The Challenge of Diabetes
Diabetes is a serious and complex condition, in which blood glucose is either not, or only partially, converted into energy. There are three main types of diabetes – type1, type 2 and gestational diabetes.
There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, which tends to be diagnosed at an early age, but can occur later in life.
There are many triggers for type 2 diabetes; some known, others not. It tends to occur later in life, although there has been a noticeable world-wide trend for teenagers to increasingly be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle modifications can reduce the risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy and resolves itself upon the baby’s delivery, but it is known that such mothers are at an elevated risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life.
There are a small number of other types of diabetes.
Of several things, we are certain.
First, the overall statistics are truly daunting.
Diabetes Australia estimates that about 1.7 million Australians live with diabetes and that about 2 million Australians are at risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes accounts for at least 85 per cent of all diabetes – a consistent proportion world-wide.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2010), diabetes will account for the greatest single burden of disease in Australia by 2017.
In 2014, almost 27,000 Victorians were diagnosed with diabetes – over 70 each and every day.
Second, the physical complications of diabetes are dreadful. They include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss and loss of limbs, to name but a few. People with diabetes are also at an increased risk of mental health conditions.
Third, a number of rigorous international studies have shown that a healthy diet and regular physical exercise can reduce the likelihood of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by about 60 per cent as well as ameliorate some of the known complications.
The first meeting of the Victorian Diabetics Association was held in the Melbourne Town Hall on Tuesday 24 March 1953.
Sixty-two years on, Diabetes Victoria is a vibrant organisation with around 40,000 financial members – the leading charity and peak consumer body working to reduce the impact of diabetes in the Victorian community. We provide support, advice, advocacy, education and training to the more than 300,000 Victorians who live with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes, as well as to their carers; we fund research; we forge partnerships with both public and corporate organisations; we work to reduce the rate of diagnosis of those Victorians at risk of type 2 diabetes; and we strive to raise awareness about diabetes as a serious and complex condition.
Diabetes Victoria is particularly well known for the diabetes camps we have run since 1954 to foster friendships and engender confidence in children of different ages living with type 1 diabetes. In addition, we work closely with almost 90 peer support groups spread throughout Victoria and have embraced social media as a powerful way of connecting with, and responding to, people living with diabetes.
The National Diabetes Services Scheme
The NDSS has been funded by the Commonwealth Government since 1987 and is administered by Diabetes Australia. People with diabetes, who are registered with the NDSS, have access to a range of subsidised products, as well as advice and support services. As at 31 December 2014, almost 1.2 million Australians were registered with the NDSS. However, not everyone with diabetes is registered with the scheme and some people don’t know that they have diabetes – hence the estimate of 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes. Many more Australians either live with or care for someone with diabetes.
Diabetes Victoria is the Victorian agent for the NDSS. Throughout Victoria, there are over 1000 NDSS Access Points (typically pharmacies), where registrants can access NDSS products and services.
The Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes
In 2010, Diabetes Victoria signed a collaboration agreement with Deakin University to establish the Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes. The ACBRD is unique, with a dedicated focus on research into the psycho-social and behavioural aspects of diabetes – embracing issues as diverse as language, distress and depression, social stigma, preventing complications (eg hypoglycaemia, vision loss) and self-care activities. The ACBRD, led by its Foundation Director: Professor Jane Speight, acts as a national research centre; as a national resource; as well as a national voice. After just five years, the ACBRD has an impressive reputation – largely based on its high-quality, peer-reviewed research publications and their impact on our thinking and our approach to diabetes.
Life! Helping you prevent diabetes, heart disease & stroke
Since 2007, Diabetes Victoria has been funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services to deliver the Life! Program. Almost 60,500 Victorians have been referred to the program and over 36,400 have commenced the structured group courses or telephone health coaching designed to prevent diabetes, heart disease and stroke in the at-risk population in Victoria, which we estimate to be approximately 500,000. The Life! Program is the largest high-risk diabetes prevention program currently underway in Australia.
In conjunction with the DHHS, we are currently evaluating the program’s effectiveness in reducing weight, waist circumference, body mass index and so forth for participants, prior to the commencement of the next funding round.
Living Well with Diabetes
Diabetes Victoria core message is that we want people with diabetes to live well.
Generously supported by corporate sponsors, we hold regular half-day seminars: Living Well with Diabetes around metropolitan Melbourne and in Geelong. At these seminars, which are typically attended by up to 500 members and others, we offer information sessions by GP’s, psychologists, podiatrists, exercise physiologists, credentialled diabetes educators and dietitians, as well as cooking demonstrations by our high-profile Chef Ambassadors.
More broadly, we want all Victorians, whether they have diabetes or not, to eat well and be physically active on a regular basis. We are therefore delighted to be the first ever official charity partner of the iconic Melbourne Food and Wine Festival and to present our signature festival event: Breakfast Around the Tan on Sunday 15 March.
In addition, we will be holding our first all-day Diabetes Expo at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, with the format and contents largely determined by consumers.
Diabetes Victoria and the Corporate Sector
The NDSS and government funding for other specific programs typically account for about 60 per cent of Diabetes Victoria annual revenue. The remaining 40 per cent is derived from membership fees, bequests, donations, our collection business and commercial partnerships.
Since 1997, we have operated a collection business in conjunction with Savers Australia Pty Ltd. Upon request or following regular bag drops, we collect unwanted clothing and small miscellaneous items from households around metropolitan Melbourne and then deliver them to Savers outlets, for which we receive a volume-specified payment. These items are then on-sold by Savers.
We greatly appreciate our relationship with Savers and are well supported by the corporate sector via a number of other highly-valued commercial partnerships – but this represents only the tip of the iceberg!
We promote workplace giving programs; run regular tax, Christmas and other appeals; and have introduced an innovative fundraising program: Friends of the CEO. Funds generated from this latter initiative are used for specific projects or programs, as agreed by my friends and me!
We do not raise funds by telephoning people; nor do we undertake on the street campaigns.
In conjunction with Diabetes Australia, we have established a Melbourne-based National Diabetes Business and Community Advisory Board. This Board brings together business and community leaders who understand the challenge of diabetes and who want to assist us in raising awareness and, ultimately, generate major gifts to allow us to fund comprehensive and large-scale prevention programs.
In 2013/14, Diabetes Victoria generated an operating surplus of almost $1.6 million. As a not-for-profit organisation, all these funds were used to support the Diabetes Australia Research Program and the ACBRD.
Together with the corporate sector, we can do so much more.
Director Emeritus Professor Paul Zimmet AO, from the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, has described the current situation with diabetes as a health tsunami. We do not believe that this overstates the current situation…
Diabetes Victoria urges more of the Australian corporate sector to get involved and support our work. Statistically, one in three Australians will develop diabetes in their lifetime – in other words, one in three of all employees and customers – at an estimated total cost of $14.6 billion per annum, in 2010 dollars (Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 2013).
Further details about our work, including our events, programs and other activities, are available from our website: www.diabetesvic.org.au
Written by Adjunct Professor Craig Bennett, Chief Executive Officer, Diabetes Victoria.
This Diabetes Victoria business profile has been made possible by the generous support of:
To read our full editorial profile, click on the cover image below.
“The feature on Diabetes Victoria in a 2015 issue of the Australian Business Executive was a great profiling opportunity for our organisation. We valued the opportunity of outlining our work and key challenges in depth to a large online executive readership.”
-Craig Bennett, CEO, Diabetes Victoria
To view this editorial as it appeared originally in The Australian Business Executive magazine, click here.