It is estimated that one in twenty Australians have diabetes and those in disadvantaged areas are more likely to develop the disease. It is one of the health system’s biggest challenges, costing an estimated $14.6 billion each year – and its unmanaged progression also leads to higher rates of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular complications.

The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) is improving access to diabetes care in rural and regional areas with the Diabetes Alliance Program+ (DAP+). The program will include the creation of a bus, equipped to be a clinic on wheels, to bring the program of care to vulnerable communities across the Hunter New England health district.

The medibus model of care is especially important for rural communities with limited access to general practitioners. The bus will take specialists such as diabetes nurses and podiatrists to rural and remote towns that may not have access to these services locally. These clinical teams provide training to local providers, and directly care for patients in a way that empowers them to better manage their own medical condition. DAP+ is specifically designed to improve evidence-based diabetes care in rural and remote areas, so it makes sense, given the scale of Australia, to drive medical specialists to where they’re needed most and deliver the program on the ground.

A key part of the research is to seek evidence that the program is making an impact on reducing the burden of this disease in rural and regional communities. This evidence will not only allow the continuation of delivering DAP+ but will also show its value for rollout in other parts of NSW and further afield.

The research is also hoped to show that the model of care can also easily be customised for rapid application to other chronic and complex health conditions, which could have a big impact on health outcomes for rural and remote communities.