Massive spread of diabetes in Africa

Massive spread of diabetes in Africa

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Diabetes is a widespread disease in Africa
There are still food shortages and hunger in many regions on the African continent. But the "affluent disease" diabetes is spreading more and more in Africa. Those affected often have no access to diagnosis and treatment, the Heidelberg University Clinic warns in a recent announcement.

The analysis of data from twelve countries south of the Sahara has shown, according to the Heidelberg University Hospital, that "almost all diabetes patients are not adequately treated". In particular, people with little education and young people often do not know anything about their illness, the experts report. Care structures and prevention strategies are not sufficiently available. The results of the current data evaluation were published in the specialist journal "The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology".

Data from 38,000 people evaluated
The international research team led by Professor Dr. Dr. As part of the current study, Till Bärnighausen from the Institute for Public Health at Heidelberg University Hospital analyzed the blood tests and health system data of around 38,000 people from twelve sub-Saharan countries. They found an alarming spread of diabetes. "Diabetes is a widespread disease in Africa, too, with around five percent of adults in the countries examined affected, with wide fluctuations," the scientists report. About two thirds of those affected are not aware of their illness.

Few sufferers receive treatment
“In particular people with little education and young patients mostly don't know about their diabetes,” the researchers explain. It becomes clear that diagnostics, therapy and prevention are hardly offered. For example, "only a third of diabetes patients - and only a quarter of those at risk of being overweight or obese - have ever had a blood sugar measurement." Adequate advice is often the exception, even if the diagnosis is correct. "Less than half of diabetes patients have ever been advised on lifestyle issues - and only a quarter have ever been treated," the researchers report.

Change in health systems required
The "prosperity disease" diabetes also poses huge challenges for health systems in Africa. In recent years, the focus here has been more on combating AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, but "Africa's health systems now need to be equipped in such a way that they can successfully prevent and treat the lifestyle diseases of overweight, diabetes and high blood pressure," emphasizes Professor Bärnighausen.

High potential in prevention, diagnostics and treatment
The current study results also make clear what potential there is in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes in Africa. "If it were possible to reach more patients with effective preventive measures and treatments, then it would very likely also be at a much lower cost than the economic losses of the late effects of diabetes," said Dr. Jennifer Manne-Goehler, who was also involved in the study. However, according to the researchers, more and better data is required to develop suitable concepts for Africa's health systems. Similar analyzes for high blood pressure and high cholesterol are also to be carried out. (fp)

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