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Case Study

posted by Research Admin 1 on 11 March 2019

Diabetes New Zealand, 5 March 2019

Diabetes self-management, healthy eating, and new products are just a few of the things people want to know about when they call the Diabetes NZ telephone helpline.

More than 200 people a month call Diabetes NZ’s telephone helpline to ask for support and advice about their diabetes. Our friendly membership support coordinator Nicky Steel is ready to help members of the public with all manner of questions from “Where can I get diabetes socks?” to “Do you have any healthy eating information in Punjabi?”

Here’s a selection of recent topics people have called about*:

Caller 1: Pam from Tauranga rings asking what foods people with diabetes should eat. She lives with her adult son Gary, who has just been diagnosed with diabetes and has anxiety issues. Pam prepares all his meals and is keen to provide the right foods. Pam is a regular caller over the next two weeks with specific queries about whether certain foods are okay to eat and if so, how much can her son have.

Nicky discusses the importance of healthy eating for people with all kinds of diabetes and sends Pam a copy of Diabetes and Healthy Food Choices, which is published by Diabetes NZ. It’s an excellent resource for people with all kinds of diabetes, available here 

Health professionals can bulk order this pamphlet for their diabetes patients, as well as other patients who have weight management issues. To order pamphlets, go to: 

Caller 2: Tom, the general manager of a transport company, calls. One of his truck drivers has type 1 diabetes and cab camera footage shows that he has been driving erratically. Tom is concerned his employee is not managing his diabetes and asks how the company can support him.

Nicky advises Tom to go to Diabetes NZ’s website to learn about type 1 diabetes and its day-to-day management ( Employees and employers have certain rights and responsibilities at work, see p8 of Autumn 2019 Diabetes Wellness magazine for more details. The NZ Transport Agency has some useful information about driving with diabetes on its website, including a guide about how to assess the fitness to drive of any individual, see

Caller 3: Bill, a retired sheep farmer from Southland, phones. He has been told by his GP that he has prediabetes and needs to make some changes to reduce his blood glucose levels. Bill is in his mid-60s and is less physically active than when he was working the farm. He wants to know what steps he needs to take to avoid developing diabetes.

For many people, a diagnosis of prediabetes is a wake-up call that they need to make some lifestyle changes to avoid developing diabetes. These include eating a healthier diet and taking measures to be more physically active every day. Nicky emails Bill a copy of Diabetes NZ’s popular prediabetes leaflet.

Caller 4: Judy from Palmerston North rings and asks to talk to someone confidentially about a sensitive issue. Her husband has type 2 diabetes and requires medication. Since he has been taking it, his libido has dramatically declined. Judy is concerned about the impact on their sex life.

This can be a very difficult subject for men in particular to discuss. The first step in dealing with impotence is talking about it with your partner and a health professional. It is a condition that is usually treatable. Nicky advises checking with the couple’s GP to see what treatment might be suitable. She also gives Judy a link to Diabetes and Healthy Food Choices. 

Caller 5: Marama, who has type 2 diabetes, calls from Northland. She is eating lots of fruit – at least seven large bananas per day. She says she is doing this to “help control her diabetes” but is concerned that this is not making any difference to her high blood sugar levels.

While fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, many people don’t realise that eating lots of it will raise blood sugar levels. Bananas, especially over-ripe ones, are high in sugar. Dietitians advise people with diabetes to eat three to four servings of fruit every day. It’s preferable to eat these throughout the day rather than in one sitting. One small banana (or half a large one) = one serving of fruit. 

Caller 6: Ruth, who has type 1 diabetes, rings from Auckland saying she finds it painful to check her blood sugars using the traditional strip-and-meter method and her fingers are calloused. She asks if there are any other options.

Nicky explains that new technologies are available, for example the Freestyle Libre is a flash glucose monitor that uses a sensor and scanner to read blood sugar levels. Other devices, including the Dexcom or Medtronic Continuous Glucose Monitors, can also reduce the number of finger prick tests needed per day.

*All names and locations have been changed.