Problems of diabetes care in Africa

Posted on April 15, 2017 12:00 am

Diabetes is becoming an epidemic confronting Africa’s health system. According to data available to your blogger, more than 10,000 Africans develop diabetes every day. Around 30 million Africans have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. For every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also lives with diabetes every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 60 million Africans are affected by diabetes every day.Total annual cost impact of diabetes in Africa is estimated at $30 billion. Living standards are rising in Africa and its economy is poised for sustainable, long-term growth. Lack of public awareness on the disease is one of the challenges facing the continent.Most people have no idea what insulin is, nor do they understand the cause of their illness. But majority knows all they need to know about how to live with diabetes. Educated, mostly urban folks knows they should lay off the sugar but on the other hand others have no clue about it. Awareness, more accurately, lack of it, remains one of the biggest barriers identified by researchers to changing diabetes in Africa. Less than one percent of those registered with diabetes in African hospitals maintain the recommended target for blood sugar levels.Lack of awareness among the public leads to a very low diagnosis rate. Most patients are unaware about diabetes, its symptoms, complications and treatment options.The need for education is great, but Africa’s health system is under-equipped.Compared to global levels, Africa was about average in the total number of people with diabetes as well as the average in the increasing rates of diabetes in Africa.Also some countries like South Africa, Kenya are up on the list of countries with regard to overweight and obesity, which is a major driver of diabetes.As a developing region, Africa is facing a dual burden of infectious diseases and the non communicable diseases. Some countries have gone on with their focus on infectious diseases without realising that non communicable diseases that have grown silently to become the top killer.

In 2016, preliminary data shows that approximately 50 percent of deaths were attributed to non communicable diseases and 5 percent of the total were due to diabetes. Yet, as i mentioned earlier most of the population is still not aware of the urgency of combatting this disease. Researchers have identified modifiable risk factors to prevent diabetes like maintaining normal body weight, eating a healthy diet and engaging in adequate physical activity.Data shows that 80 percent of African adolescents were physically inactive. The percentage of the African population that is overweight steadily increases annually for both men and women, respectively. Obesity also showed an increasing trend over recent decades and obesity prevalence in women has roughly doubled compared to that of men. Statistics showed a similar pattern in all African countries, which is why halting the epidemic should be Africa’s overarching goal now.Me thinks that because of a lack of education, this problem has aggravated. People still strongly believe that diabetes is a genetic disease and hence they embrace the diagnosis as part of inevitable heritage. In Africa, most people researchers worked with believed that only genetic hereditary contributed to predisposition for type 2 diabetes yet the disease itself develops throughout one’s lifespan due to multifactorial causes. Africans are also unaware of the early symptoms of diabetes, which usually include constant fatigue, thirst and cravings. Also, a huge number of Africans are living in environment that promotes gaining weight and one that is not conducive to weight loss and capital cities like Pretoria, Abuja are prime examples.In African cities air is severely polluted, sidewalks are crowded with vendors and using private vehicle is much more comfortable than sharing public transportation.  All these things beyond Africans personal choice that directly or indirectly affect Africans population’s health are known as social determinants of health. Researchers say Africa loses billions of dollars a year, about 10 percent of its gross domestic product, due to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.Small lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of diabetes. For example regular physical activity helps to generally maintain one’s health, and it is also a way to prevent diabetes.Also, controlling the portions of food to eat help lose weight, it is also key to preventing diabetes. In addition, consuming healthy food combined with moderate portions will curtail the chances of getting diabetes.Another one is minimising stress levels through physical activity or meditation can also help keep diabetes at bay. Just like other parts of the world, diabetes is wrecking havoc in Africa, a problem that can only be solved by African themselves.

Contador Harrison