ASKING Ray Kelly about diabetes might be similar to stepping into a boxing ring with him.
Before you've register the bell has rung, he's hit you with facts and figures about the disease.
All of sudden you're on the ropes wondering how we got in to this situation in the first place.
But the flurry will not weary
It's because he is ready for a fight.
"It is a highly reversible disease, but it is also the fastest growing chronic disease in the country," he said.
"I have no doubt we are going to look back in 20 years' time and just shake our heads and go 'what were we thinking, why didn't we change that sooner'.
"The writing was always on the wall."
Dropout to Doctor
Kelly turned 50 this year but this things are only speeding up for the former Quirindi man.
He will start work on his PhD with the University of Technology in Sydney with a focus on type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal communities.
Getting ready to put pen the paper on a doctorate degree seems a world away from where Kelly was at age 16.
"A week after my 16th birthday, I finished my school certificate and just pretty much laboured, dug holes and painted houses," he said.
"At the age of 21, I started picking up weights at the Quirindi PCYC which is now Plains fitness.
"They didn't have enough income to pay me a wage.
"So I would be painting houses during the day out at Premer.
"Drive in from Premer and I'd work for free for a few hours and then drive back and paint the next day."
It was 13 years after dropping out until Kelly dived back into academia.
The long road to the present is not lost on the budding researcher.
"I wanted to [go to uni] when I was in high school and I got told pretty much, in a nice way, I wouldn't have got the grades," he said.
"I probably wasn't mature enough was the real answer."
Now staring down a doctorate degree, Kelly first priority is giving back to community.
Knocking out diabetes
Beating diabetes, particularly in Aboriginal communities, is a winnable fight in the eyes of Kelly.
He would love to conduct his PhD research in the region he grew up in.
With funding and backing from the University of New England and the Primary Health Network, Kelly has been training type 2 diabetes patients through local Aboriginal Medical Service in Quirindi, Coledale and Walhollow.
He said the results speak for themselves.
The program is built on a light exercise regime and easy, affordable diet.
The aim is to reduce fat around the liver.
"In the past, we have been treating the blood sugars and using the medication to get the blood sugars down," he said.
"It hasn't worked.
"Less than 50 per cent of all people with type 2 diabetes can get ideal blood sugars, not good blood sugars, for their medication.
"All those medications and that's the best we have got, less than 50 per cent."
He said there is research which has showed weight loss can help type 2 patients move off medication altogether.
"It's not that medication is a bad thing," he said.
"Medication is okay, but it doesn't work anywhere near as well without the lifestyle change."
Working within the Aboriginal Medical Services in the region and around the state, Kelly said this model has proven effective because he can work alongside the GPs and nurse in his role as an exercise physiologist.
There is a strong connection for the former TV trainer and Tamworth.
But the city has its own challenges when it comes to health and lifestyle.
Statistics show it is one of the country's most overweight and obese.
Why is there funding going to programs not getting these results? That is a problem right across the country.
Researcher Ray Kelly
And there are related issues with high rates of smoking, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
"I travel in the outback and Western Sydney so I don't think Tamworth is in that bad a shape at the moment," he said.
"It is certainly going in the wrong direction."
Kelly said there were strategies which needed to change at a national level.
"There is a lot of funding around for this sort of stuff but it is going in the wrong area," he said.
"That is where the questions have to be asked.
"Why is there funding going to programs not getting these results.
"That is a problem right across the country, but it is a problem in Tamworth too."
It’s been a very big year, and what a way to end it!— Ray Kelly (@raykellyfitness) December 18, 2019
Very proud and honoured to have been named Exercise Physiologist of the Year!
We have so many amazing EP’s out there doing their thing so to have this happen is quite special!@NACCHOAustralia@IAHA_Nationalhttps://t.co/IEzccDiV88
Fortuitously, Kelly will have a tremendous platform to broadcast his call for change in 2020.
Exercise and Sports Science Australia recently recognised Kelly as exercise scientist of the year.
It is a long way from his humble beginning as a trainer in Quirindi PCYC, but he is ready to rally for change with the title.
"I can use that platform to raise awareness of what we are trying to achieve and that is to change the way type 2 diabetes is treated in Australia," he said.
"Across the country, it is not working."