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Study Protocol – Diabetes and related conditions in urban Indigenous people in the Darwin, Australia region: aims, methods and participation in the DRUID Study

Joan Cunningham1*, Kerin O'Dea1, Terry Dunbar2, Tarun Weeramanthri3, Paul Zimmet4 and Jonathan Shaw4

Author Affiliations

1 Menzies School of Health Research and Institute of Advances Studies, Charles Darwin University, PO Box 41096, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia

2 Charles Darwin University, Darwin, NT 0909, Australia

3 Northern Territory Department of Health and Community Services, PO Box 40596, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia

4 International Diabetes Institute, 250 Kooyong Road, Caulfield, VIC 3162, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-8

Published: 17 January 2006

Abstract

Background

Diabetes mellitus is a serious and increasing health problem in Australia and is a designated national health priority. Diabetes and related conditions represent an even greater health burden among Indigenous Australians (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders), but there are critical gaps in knowledge relating to the incidence and prevalence, aetiology, and prevention of diabetes in this group, including a lack of information on the burden of disease among Indigenous people in urban areas. The DRUID Study (Diabetes and Related conditions in Urban Indigenous people in the Darwin region) was designed to address this knowledge gap.

Methods/design

The study was conducted in a specified geographic area in and around Darwin, Australia. Eligible participants underwent a health examination, including collection of blood and urine samples, clinical and anthropometric measurements, and administration of questionnaires, with an additional assessment for people with diabetes. The study was designed to incorporate local Indigenous leadership, facilitate community engagement, and provide employment and training opportunities for local Indigenous people. A variety of recruitment methods were used. A total of 1,004 eligible people gave consent and provided at least one measurement. When compared with census data for the Indigenous population living in the study area, there was a marked under-representation of males, but no substantial differences in age, place of residence, Indigenous group, or household income. Early participants were more likely than later participants to have previously diagnosed diabetes.

Discussion

Despite lower than anticipated recruitment, this is, to our knowledge, the largest study ever conducted on the health of Indigenous Australians living in urban areas, a group which comprises the majority of Australia's Indigenous population but about whose health and wellbeing relatively little is known. The study is well-placed to provide new information that can be used by policy makers and service providers to improve the delivery of services and programs that affect the health of Indigenous people. It also represents a valuable opportunity to establish an urban Indigenous cohort study, provided participants can be followed successfully over time.