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'Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic' - Dr James Muecke AM, 2020 Australian of the Year

Posted on May 28 2020

 The following is the fifth in a series of weekly guest posts from 2020 Australian of the Year, Dr James Muecke. 

About Dr Muecke

56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM is passionate about fighting blindness. His focus is the leading cause of blindness in working age adults – type 2 diabetes – a spiralling epidemic that in some regions of Australia is impacting over one-in-ten people. It's also the fastest growing cause of vision loss in Aboriginal people and the sixth-biggest killer in this country. James wants to challenge our perception of sugar and its toxic impact on the development of type 2 diabetes.

James co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. Sight For All’s comprehensive and sustainable educational strategies are impacting on the lives of over one million people each year. 

With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in low income countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue

This is the fifth piece in this series, to read the fourth message click here

Type 2 diabetes is a global epidemic

Globally, there has been a four-fold increase in type 2 diabetes since 1980. And the growth has been even more profound in some communities and countries.

The increasing intake of cheap and highly processed foods, supplemented by an explosion in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (there’s been a 30% increase in the consumption of sugary drinks in Australia in the decade up to 2017), and coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle, has been catastrophic to our health and to the productivity of the economies of each nation that’s been impacted.

In many parts of the world, including Australia, type 2 diabetes is present in nearly one in every ten adults. Half of all adults in the US, and in some parts of Australia, have either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, for the first time ever. In Australia, there are over 1100 teens and children with type 2 diabetes, a disease previously only seen in mature aged people (hence the former term ‘maturity-onset diabetes’). There’s even a reported case in a three-year-old child.

In the Aboriginal people of Australia, there’s been an 80-fold increase in diabetes since 1980. A diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates is all too common in remote communities, where sweet products are in abundance and fresh and healthy foods are scarce and expensive.

It’s easy to nominate now for the 2021 Awards, just complete the online nomination form at

Keen to learn more? Click here to read the next blog!


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