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Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 7 September 2010

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and for his tireless campaigning to raise awareness of diabetes. We know that being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Our approach is to support families and young people to eat healthily and be physically active.

I thank the Minister for his comments. I declare an interest as one who has type 2 diabetes. As he knows, we spend £1 million an hour treating diabetes-related illnesses, and more and more people are now being diagnosed at a much younger age. What steps are the Government taking to alert parents and young people to the perils of diabetes?

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw our attention to the rising rate of diabetes in our country. When it comes to diabetes in children, we have to bear in mind that the diagnosis for type 1 diabetes—which affects about 23,000 children in this country—is a genetically predisposed condition that cannot easily be prevented. We need to do more about type 2 diabetes, however, by tackling the obesity problems in this country. We need to deliver physical and healthy eating programmes through schools and other partners, and those things are much better done in the context of the local authorities, which will now have a new responsibility for public health that the last Government never gave them.

Information and education are also important for people with the condition of diabetes, to help them to get the maximum benefit from their prescribed course of treatment. May I urge the Minister to make an assessment of the improvements to health that education and information can contribute?

My hon. Friend makes a good point about the value of information in empowering patients, and about the value of education. That is why we want to do more with NHS information prescriptions, which is an important tool, and to ensure that the care planning process that delivers tailored care plans also includes structured education. There is no doubt that providing education really does make a difference to the outcomes for people with diabetes.

I thank the Minister for his response to the question. I also wish to declare an interest as a type 2 diabetic. The junk food culture of the moment is a serious problem, so what steps is the Minister taking to address that in his effort to reduce the number of people being diagnosed as diabetic over the next year?

The best way of responding to the hon. Gentleman’s very appropriate question is to say that we are taking a four-pronged approach to diabetes. First, we need to tackle the causes of the condition through a renewed impetus on public health. We shall announce more of our plans in our White Paper later this autumn. Secondly, we need earlier identification and diagnosis so that we can help people to manage their condition at an earlier stage so that it does not progress. Thirdly, we need effective management and self-directed care. Finally, we need world-class research so that we can better understand the condition and deliver better treatments.