The Deputy Minister of Health Dr Gwen Ramokgopa addressed the International Denominational Church congregation in Mothutlung near Brits, in North West yesterday. This was part of the build-up engagements for World Diabetes Day, which will be commemorated on 14 November 2012, to enlighten communities on preventative measures for diabetes.
Proceedings on the day commenced with a normal church service at 10h30, followed by the Deputy Minister's address, after which health screenings were offered through a mobile service. The Deputy Minister also handed out garden implements to the church.
Research shows that between four and six million people in South Africa have diabetes, and that most of these people are unaware they have the condition. Around the world it has been shown that education and motivation reduces the cost of diabetes care as well as reducing the serious diabetes-related complications.
In her address, the Deputy Minister encouraged churches, schools, and other organisations to partner with the department to fight the scourge and get tested to know their status on diabetes. People at risk of developing diabetes are those with a family history of diabetes, those of Asian origin, women with previous gestational diabetes or high birth-weight infants (over 4 kg), those with hypertension and those who are obese. These people need to be monitored very carefully to detect diabetes in its early stages.
Hypertension and Type 2 diabetes are, by and large, lifestyle diseases that result from many years of abusing our bodies by eating unhealthy food, not exercising regularly, smoking and using tobacco products and drinking harmful quantities of alcohol. Individuals are advised and encouraged to adopt a healthy lifestyle, start embracing health seeking behaviours and focus on preventing illnesses brought on by unhealthy lifestyle choices.
There is an outbreak of diabetes worldwide and developing countries like South Africa are the worst targets. The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that in South Africa the numbers will triple in the next fifteen years. Although all groups are affected, those most at risk are communities that are undergoing rapid lifestyle and cultural changes, as well as people of Indian descent who have a gene pool that makes them unusually vulnerable to diabetes.
Over 60 percent of the world's total untimely deaths are directly connected to non-communicable diseases (NCD). NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. South Africa has made significant investments in NCD efforts, although a much greater focus is needed on the management of these diseases.
The symptoms of diabetes are thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, blurring vision, poor wound healing and general body weakness. Sometimes there are no symptoms, especially in older persons.