New Vision (Kampala)

15 November 2012

Uganda: World Diabetes Day Should Be Wake-Up Call for the Public

Photo: Phuong Tran/IRIN
Over two million Ugandans are diabetic according to the government.

Today Uganda joins the rest of the world to mark World Diabetes Day, a day set aside to create global awareness on the escalating health threat that diabetes now poses.

The World Diabetes Day 2012 campaign marks the fourth year of the five-year focus on "Diabetes Education and Prevention".

While the themed campaigns last the whole year, the day itself is celebrated on November 14, the birthday of Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best, first conceived the idea in 1922 which led to the discovery of insulin, a life-saving treatment for diabetes patients.

Diabetes is a chronic condition when the body cannot regulate the sugar levels in the blood. This may lead to a plethora of other ailments including hypertension.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates the number of diabetics at 346 million people worldwide. This number is estimated to double by 2030 without intervention. Almost 80% of diabetes deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, Uganda inclusive.

In 1971, when president Idi Amin expelled the Indians among whom were medical doctors, Mulago Hospital was left with the burden of caring for diabetic patients. This led to the birth of Uganda Diabetes Association in 1972 starting with 254 members.

According to the Minister of Health's report, in the first East African Diabetes Summit held at Munyonyo in July 2011, 10.2 million people in Uganda were pre-diabetic of which it was predicted that eight million would be diabetic by 2012, with type II dominating at 90%.

A recent study that was done in Kampala showed that more than 10% of its residents were diabetic, although very few had gone for diabetes screening tests and many did not know the grave nature of this disease.

Diabetes accounts for more than 4.6 million deaths per year. Non communicable diseases account for 25% of all deaths in Uganda, diabetes contributing 1% of these according to WHO.

Diabetes costs sub Saharan Africa an estimated $67.03b annually or $8836 per diabetic patient (sh22m). This highlights the urgent need for action to the protection of the health of our future generations.

The major causes of diabetes include unhealthy body weight, poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and genetic pre-disposition. Over time, diabetes results in various complications which include, stroke, blindness, heart attack, kidney failure and impotence.

Depending on the type and severity, diabetes is controlled by, adoption of healthy lifestyles (such as quitting smoking and alcoholism, engaging in healthy physical activity as prescribed by your doctor or nutritionist), weight loss, oral medication or injected insulin and dietary measures as prescribed by your nutritionist or dietician.

Dietary measures that can be used to control or prevent diabetes include; reducing sugar intake, reducing food portions and increasing consumption of vegetables. Some nutritional supplements have also been formulated to help diabetics and are available on the Ugandan market, for example, Pentasure DM®.

The World Diabetic Day presents an opportunity for diabetic patient to make better choices in diet and lifestyle to improve their health; for doctors or healthcare professionals to improve knowledge and for the Government to implement proper policies for prevention and management of diabetes.

It is also a wake-up call to the general public to be alert about diabetes and understand its

serious impact.

The writer is a nutritionist with Uganda Health Marketing Group

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