Cape Times

SA joins global effort to beat Type 2 diabetes

- Lisa Isaacs

WHILE it is estimated that 41.5 million people have diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, a four-year collaborat­ive research project, launched at UWC last week, aims to develop and test new approaches to tackling and reducing Type 2 diabetes.

The initiative, called SMART2D (self-management and reciprocal learning for the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes), is a project between institutio­ns in South Africa and Uganda, Belgium, Sweden and Finland to develop and test new approaches to substantia­lly reduce Type 2 diabetes among population­s in low-, middle- and high-income countries.

It’s estimated that, globally, about 382 million people have diabetes. This number is expected to jump to 592 million by 2035, and by 2030 it will become the seventh leading cause of death.

According to those projection­s, sub-Saharan Africa is going to be hardest hit, said Professor Andre Kengne, director of the Non-Communicab­le Diseases Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council.

“The global occurrence is marked by regional disparity. South Africa will be the driver of the epidemic in the region.”

He said South Africa was particular­ly alarming as it is estimated that 8.4 percent of the adult population had diabetes by 2014 – accounting for about 69 000 deaths, numbers matched only in sub-Saharan Africa by Nigeria, which boasts three times the adult population.

“The changing food environmen­t we live in induces us to more processed foods, and drink more and more soft drinks. This rise in diabetes is linked to this sugar epidemic,” said Professor Stefan Peterson, the principal investigat­or on SMART2D.

Project co-ordinator Dr Peter Delobelle said that the rising prevalence of diabetes is due to socio-cultural and demographi­c or epidemiolo­gical changes, including an ageing population, increased urbanisati­on, unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity leading to obesity.

“In South Africa, the prevalence of diabetes was found to be 13 percent among 25- to 74-year-old black Africans in Cape Town in 2008/09, and an estimated 1 million undiagnose­d cases, especially in rural areas,” he said.

The initiative will conduct studies in three settings: a rural village setting in Uganda, an urban township in South Africa and vulnerable urban immigrant population­s in Stockholm, Sweden, said university spokesman Luthando Tyhalibong­o.

The overall aim is to strengthen capacity for the treatment and prevention of Type 2 diabetes through proven strategies such as taskshifti­ng and expanding care networks, he added.

Professor Thandi Puoane, who heads the SMART2D team, said: “Non-communicab­le diseases now feature in the Department of Health’s strategic plans and there is also funding from other department­s. There are still big challenges, but if we can work with each other, there is hope.”

This rise in diabetes is linked to this sugar epidemic

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa