Diabetes is a condition that has plagued sub-Saharan Africa for decades and has been on the rise in recent years. However, with technology constantly changing and Africans learning more about diabetes risk factors, the region is sure to make progress in curbing the disease. Below are seven facts about diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa.
7 Facts About Diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa
- The Diabetes Declaration for Africa is one of the first calls to action that the region has been exposed to. It calls on the governments of African nations to make efforts to prevent diabetes as well as reduce morbidity from the disease.
- One of the main reasons sub-Saharan Africa has seen such a large increase in diabetes cases is due to the lack of consistent data on diabetes rates among the general population as well as sensitive populations. One report shows that diabetes rates in the region increased by almost 90 percent between 1990 and 2010. However, immunological factors, environmental factors as well as genetic factors have only been researched in recent years.
- Physical activity plays a large factor in why diabetes is so prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. While many other regions in Africa consist of rural communities, sub-Saharan Africa consists of many urban communities. Urban communities require less physical activity due to the increased use of public transportation. Rural communities require a lot more physical activity due to the number of tasks that involve walking outside or lifting and moving objects.
- There is a major lack of efficient healthcare workers in sub-Saharan Africa who are able to treat patients with diabetes. More than 50 percent of those living with diabetes in the region are undiagnosed. The region holds 13 percent of the world’s population and 24 percent of all global diseases, yet only 2 percent of the world’s doctors. Fortunately, however, countries in the region are making an effort to make more healthcare workers available to patients. In 2010, Tanzania enacted the Twiga Initiative, which would double the country’s trained healthcare workers from 3,850 per year to 7,500 per year.
- A lack of proper education in diabetes management and early warning signs is a large reason that diabetes instances have increased in sub-Saharan Africa. But, in order to improve education on the self-management of diabetes, the International Diabetes Federation Africa Region (AFR) has been working to provide training on the condition in the region. The AFR represents 34 diabetes organizations throughout Africa and provided training sessions in Kenya in 2019.
- Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa have easier access to blood glucose self-monitoring than others. While out of a sample size of 384, only 3 percent of Ethiopians were able to self-monitor their blood glucose at home. However, out of a sample size of 150, 43 percent of Nigerians were able to do so.
- In 2007, the U.N. General Assembly enacted World Diabetes. This was a milestone in acknowledging that diabetes is a global threat not just to sub-Saharan Africa but to partners and stakeholders that work to prevent diabetes and related diseases.
While diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa has been on the rise for decades, progress is being made in various countries throughout the region. With more improvements to technology, healthcare, education and self-management,sub-Saharan Africa could reduce the extreme rates of diabetes.
– Alyson Kaufman