Global experts heed call for diabetes interventions in South Africa

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) continue to pose a huge threat to emerging economies – especially in Africa. Poorly planned rapid-urbanisation, limited medical infrastructure and lack of nutrition education work as catalysts to spur on the silent killers.

Diabetes, chief among the NCDs, has an alarming global prevalence rate of 1 in 11 people. In Africa though, this number can be as high as 1 in 5. The socio-economic impact of diabetes is huge – associated maladies such as obesity and physical debilitation have the double negative effect of burdening medical care infrastructure while reducing national productivity.

South Africa, one of the hardest hit by diabetes, has alarming levels of related medical burden. Recently, Professor Thifheli Luvhengo surgical chief at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital (Johannesburg) confirmed that about a third of all beds in surgical wards are taken up by diabetic sepsis related amputations.

“It is rare that a patient with diabetic foot sepsis gets out of hospital within six weeks. These patients end up competing with patients with cancers, people who have been in car accidents and other surgical emergency for limited number of beds available, as they stay long in hospital,” said Luvhengo.

He added that, “As a surgeon, this is a cry for help. The epidemic is so huge. We need help not to treat diabetes, but to prevent it.”

Heeding this and many other calls by overburdened medical professionals across the continent, global experts in the fight against diabetes will be in Cape Town, South Africa, for the first Diabetes Frontier event to be held on World Diabetes Day.

The aim of the conference will be to share insights, innovations and intervention programs geared at slowing the spread of the disease before it reaches the steep part of exponential growth.

Chief among these experts will be former International Diabetes Federation (IDF) president Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, a vocal stalwart in Africa’s fight against diabetes for many years now.

“At a conservative estimate there must are 1 billion people who either have diabetes or live with someone who does,” Mbanya has said in the past, hinting at the fact that diabetes is a disease with wide reaching social implications. Especially in communities where breadwinners may have many dependents.

Mbanya is expected to release the latest global diabetes data which will form part of the 8th edition of the IDF Diabetes Atlas, set to be released later this year.

Professor Andre Pascal Kengne, the Director of the Non-Communicable Diseases Research Unit at South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) will also be presenting fresh trend data on obesity and diabetes based on a historic 20 year study featured in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Other speakers expected at the two day conference are:

Professor Naomi Levitt Director, Chronic Disease Initiative (University of Cape Town)
Dr Ankia Coetzee, Clinical Endocrinologist (Stellenbosch University)
Associate Professor Julia Goedecke, Snr Specialist Scientist (SAMRC)
Dr Eva Njenga, Consultant Endocrinologist (Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre)
Professor Eugene Sobngwi, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism (University of Yaoundé)
Professor Justine Davies, Professor of Global Health at Kings College, London and Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
Professor Carel Le Roux, Head of Pathology (University College Dublin, Ireland) and bariatric surgery and obesity specialist

The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology Commission will also be presenting on the challenges of dealing with diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa.


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