“I want to try and do something to prevent children from falling into the same traps of modern living that is causing so many of their parents’ generation to develop serious lifelong health problems.” This was the goal that drove Miranda to join Healthy Futures as a volunteer in 2015, and still drives her to get out into communities to spread that message.
In her day job, Miranda is a Diabetes Nurse Specialist at Wellington Hospital, and before that she was a Nephrology Nurse, looking after people needing dialysis because of kidney failure, most commonly caused by diabetes. “Back in the early eighties, diabetes was the cause of around 17 percent of people needing dialysis. Now it’s around 50 percent”.
In the eight years she has been in her current role, she has seen a big rise in numbers of young people with type 2 diabetes.
When I started nursing, type 2 diabetes was considered to be a condition associated with old age. But now it’s a condition associated with being overweight, and we are seeing more and more overweight young people heading down that track.
How type 2 diabetes impacts people's lives
This means that the complications of type 2 diabetes in those young people could start as early as their late teens or early twenties. It could hold them back from doing all the ‘normal’ things people of that age should be doing, like going to school, getting and holding down a job, forming relationships and having a family. And that has serious implications for the rest of their lives. But it also has massive implications for our collective future as a productive society.”
There is a period of time, usually months or years, before type 2 diabetes can be diagnosed, when the condition is developing but without the affected person even realising it’s there. Lifestyle changes at this point have been shown to stop the progression towards diabetes.
“I want to help people in that ‘pre-diabetic’ stage to find ways of fitting healthier eating and activity into their normal, everyday lives, so they can thrive and be the best they can be.”
Miranda's focus is on:
- Educating young people and their families about the health effects of what they eat and drink
- Incorporating life skills like cooking and being active into health education in schools
- Regulation of food marketing and a sugary drinks tax
- Alternative options for community fundraising that encourage healthy food choices. Read her guide to healthy fundraising here.
Miranda is committed to spreading the simple message that making smart choices about what you eat, along with moving more, can have a huge, long-term impact on quality of life. Some examples are choosing water instead of sugary fizzy drinks, and learning how to read food labels.
“The message is a simple one, but getting it out there is not so simple. It needs a multi-pronged approach, from all levels of society. Getting out into communities and schools is a big part of it, but also local and central government must take a lead to minimise harmful messages out there in our environment, and maximise opportunities for making healthier choices.”