South Africa: Diabetes Is Linked to Food Insecurity, and Needs Co-Ordinated, Multisectoral Intervention

Community members get tested for sicknesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital during the World Diabetes Day awareness campaign led by MaNgema Zuma in Umlazi, South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal (file photo).

Evidence shows that the risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood is influenced not only by genetic and adult lifestyle factors; the environment during early life also plays a very important role. People living in unfavourable environments and facing difficult socio-economic situations may begin life with increased vulnerability to diabetes and many other non-communicable diseases.

Diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low- and middle-income countries over the past decade than it has in high-income countries. Globally, three quarters of reported diabetes cases occur in low- and middle-income countries that are also experiencing mild to severe forms of food insecurity, which contributes to the increased occurrence of type 2 diabetes.

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has estimated that by 2030 the number of people living with diabetes globally is expected to reach 552 million, with the highest number of cases occurring in Africa. In 2015, almost half of all adults with diabetes in Africa came from South Africa (2.3 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (1.8 million), Nigeria (1.6 million) and Ethiopia (1.3 million).

In South Africa, 5.4% of the total adult population of 33.7 million is diabetic, while a large proportion of that population remains undiagnosed. This is because it takes...

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