Since late 2007, Diabetes Victoria has delivered the Life! program on behalf of the Victorian government, with consistent bipartisan support. Life! is a lifestyle intervention program for people at high risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – delivered either via a series of face-to-face group sessions or via telephone health coaching sessions.  Thus far, almost 72,000 Victorians have completed at least the introductory session of the program, with successive evaluation reports showing positive outcomes for participants in terms of weight loss, reduced BMI and reduced waist circumference, among other key measures.
As you would expect, the program has evolved considerably over time.  Noticeable changes have been the introduction of the Road to Good Health (for indigenous communities); a focus on CaLD communities; the introduction of a 12 month follow-up session; the establishment of an online platform; and an increasing focus on digital delivery options (accelerated by our response to COVID-19).
As we prepare a submission to extend funding for the Life! program over the next few years, the Department of Health and Diabetes Victoria have taken the opportunity to review key aspects of the program – such as the program offering and content, the business operating model and the contracted workforce model.  Consultants have now been appointed to undertake these reviews over the next few months, so we will work closely with them to adapt the Life! program to key departmental priorities.  At the same time, we will complete the upgrade of the Life! website; continue technical work on the online platform; and commence implementation of our recently finalised organisation-wide Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy: 2021-23.  We are also very keen to learn from the large scale NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme, for which the outcomes over time and challenges are broadly similar to those of the Life! program.  You can read more about the NHS program here.  Of particular interest is the orientation of this program towards digital delivery options
Clearly, this is a busy and important time for our Prevention and Health Promotion staff, so I express my gratitude to Wendy Mason and her team for their hard work and commitment to continuously improving the largest prevention program for such high-risk individuals in Australia.
While prevention is a key focus for us at the moment, the latest NDSS statistics are a sobering reminder of the challenges that lie ahead.  As at 31 December 2020, more than 362,000 Victorians were registered with the NDSS and during 2020, this figure grew by 88 every single day.  For Australia as a whole, the comparable figures were just over 1.4 million and 311.  We will need to wait until these figures are analysed in detail to see whether or not COVID-19 has caused these figures to increase.
Research funding opportunities are also much on our mind at the moment.  Following the focus on COVID-19-related research last year, there are a number of important current funding opportunities which Diabetes Victoria is actively pursuing in collaboration with our key clinical and research partners.  In the meantime, we look forward to an early announcement about the recipients of the 2021 Diabetes Australia Research Program grants, for which there were a record number of applications. Although delayed because of some difficulties associated with the pandemic, the funding pool for this grant round has been maintained at recent levels and it remains one of the most important annual sources of support for diabetes-related research in Australia.
Finally, welcome to the Year of the Ox – the second animal sign (of twelve) in the Chinese zodiac.  The attributes of the ox are thought to be hard work, honesty and being positive, so if these attributes resonate with you, 2021 could be your year…
With kind regards
Craig Bennett
Chief Executive Officer
We support, empower and campaign for all Victorians affected by, or at risk of, diabetes.