Diabetes Mellitus in Africa

by 02/11/2012 11:53:00 0 comments 894 Views
Diabetes Mellitus in Africa

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is a chronic disease that is characterized by a sustained increase of blood sugar. There are four main types of diabetes but the most important ones are the type 1diabetes (DM1) and type 2 diabetes (DM2).

If not diagnosed and / or treated properly, diabetes can lead to irreversible complications such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, amputations, erectile dysfunction and neuropathy (disease of the nerve fibers).
On the contrary to popular belief, any of these types has, as the main causes genetic factors (meaning, the information contained in our organism and that is passed to us by our parents) and environmental factors (our lifestyle), in different proportions. For type 2 diabetes, it is already established that lifestyle (obesity, physical inactivity, alcoholism, the population aging, among others) is directly related to the onset of the disease and that it accompanies, in all countries the increase of the obesity. The type 2 diabetes is responsible for about 90% of diabetes cases in Africa.

A few decades ago diabetes was considered to be a rare disease  in Africa, but now it is estimated to affect over 13 million people in this region and, in 2012, around 350 000 of these people will die from complications related to the disease. In 2030, there will be about 24 million adults with diabetes in the region. This frame becomes more frightening when, as it is known, only 15% of all cases of diabetes are diagnosed, in sub-Saharan Africa
For us to have an idea of the economic costs of this illness, let us report to the study made in 2008, of its impact on health systems:

• The DM in Africa mainly affects the economically active population. When the affected ones are aged between 25-29 years, the loss of total years of life due to this disease is about 16 years. This represents an U.S. dollars amount, which must be studied in our economies.

• In the U.S., about one-tenth of every dollar spent on health was attributed to diabetes

• Direct costs with diabetes in 2002 totaled in the U.S., 92 billion dollars, of which 40 billion were spent on hospitalization of diabetic patients and 18 billion were spent on the purchase of drugs for the disease treatment.

Despite the burden that diabetes represents to any health system, there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. There are now strong scientific evidence of:

1. The onset of type 2 diabetes can be significantly delayed or even prevented with lifestyle changes.

2. Many of the diabetes complications can be prevented or delayed. Of these, the World Health Organization reports that the evidence indicates that 80% of the heart and brain diseases related to diabetes can be prevented at relatively low cost.

3. When a country invests in the diabetes diagnosis and treatment, the effect of this investment is a significant reduction of heart diseases, kidney diseases, obesity, hypertension, and decrease of smoking and life quality augmentation.

4. A 2% reduction in the chronic diseases above mentioned can lead, in 10 years, to a decrease of about 36.000.000 deaths, predicted for 2025.

5. In monetary terms that can lead to a reduction, in health expenditure of 15 billion dollars in India, a figure that can also be applied to Africa.

African countries are facing innumerous health challenges, embodied by transmissible diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, therefore the health authorities in sub-Saharan Africa and the international donors need reliable data on the diabetes epidemiology and impact, to plan and prioritize the disease in their health programs.
With this double burden of diseases and limited resources, diabetes must compete for political attention and financial investment. Policy makers need guidance, buoyed opinions and updated information on the trends and the impact of this disease on the public health.
According to all this, we can easily conclude that Diabetes Mellitus is currently a public health problem that Africa needs to face with agility and promptness, failing to see its growth threatened by the negative impact that this disease may have on the fragile economies of its countries.