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If Divya Sharma could get one message through to Indian women of Perth, it would be this: stop putting yourself last.

The Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital consultant anaesthetist is on a mission to reduce the “disproportionate” number of people of Indian descent with diabetes and heart disease.
Along with 14 fellow female Indian doctors and supported by the Australian Indian Medical Association and Diabetes WA, Dr Sharma will host a public health stall at NAARI: The Aussie-Indian Women’s Expo (AIWE) at the Herb Graham Recreation Centre on June 11.

“Every female, whether they are Indian or not, are often the last in the healthcare race in the house,” Dr Sharma said.
“I have had a couple of instances where mothers – who have been relatively close to me –haven’t paid attention to their health and have paid the ultimate price for it.
“It’s easy enough to tell a woman ‘you must put your health first’ but it’s very hard for that person to do so when they are trying to juggle all that they do. Ultimately, if you don’t look after yourself however, you can’t look after anybody.”

Diabetes WA management unit manager Sophie McGough said there were a number of reasons why people of Indian descent were more susceptible to type 2 diabetes.
“Research has found that Indian people have increased genetic susceptibility to type 2 diabetes at a younger age and even at lower weights, particularly when they carry fat around their waist,” Ms McGough said. “A combination of factors include the introduction of western culture and sedentary behaviour combined with a diet that is low in vegetables, high in calories and saturated fat.”
Dr Sharma said Indian Society of WA committee member and AIWE organiser Bindiya Manchanda came up with the expo idea as a way to celebrate the Indian Australian woman. “It is to promote good health and be an example to the community, especially the young girls there, that you can do medicine and do good with medicine,” she said.

Diabetes WA has provided Dr Sharma with educational materials, healthy eating cards and workshop information.
“To have the backing of Diabetes WA is a really big deal,” she said.
“At the very least, if we can hand out those cards to people, I think we have made a difference.
“Sometimes what you say to people doesn’t get heard as much as when they have time to read those key messages. Diabetes is such a huge problem, so the challenge is making it into simple, bite-sized pieces. Not saying ‘Don’t, don’t, don’t’ but rather ‘Try this, do that’. It’s an empowering message.”