A recently initiated low-cost program designed to prevent the Maori people from developing diabetes has been halted. The interruption to the program, thought to be permanent, comes because of financial pressure and also the intense difficulties of changing ingrained eating and exercise habits.
The attempt came following news that 12 per cent of Maori people have diabetes, a rate almost three times the prevalence of the global population. Over 5000 Maori were recruited into the study since its inception in 2004. The research, known as Te Wai O Rona: Diabetes Prevention Strategy, was the world’s largest reported study on preventing the spread of type 2 diabetes.
With strong enrolment, hopes for the program were high, prompting one Auckland University expert to say: “We now have a statistically valid sample to be able to demonstrate a 35 per cent reduction in new cases of type 2 diabetes over four years.”
However, the program will now finish at the end of this year. The head of the study, Prof. Des Gorma, said: “We’re not abandoning it. We’ve found out that it’s not possible to address this complex problem in such a cheap way. If you are looking at a research project, what’s needed here is anthropology, not a medical study, because the issue with regard to obesity and Maori is … around the central nature of food to the culture. Food is pivotal to that culture and you can tell the importance of an occasion or the importance of a person by looking at the food available.”

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