African health leaders gather to address significant rise in diabetes


With the incidence of diabetes rising at an alarming rate worldwide, UN member states have resolved to host a summit in 2011 on this growing healthcare threat. In preparation for this, South Africa hosted the Diabetes Leadership Forum Africa 2010 (DLFA) in Johannesburg on 30 September and 1 October.

The forum, which was co-hosted by the South African Ministry of Health and the World Diabetes Foundation (WDF), was supported by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and co-organised and sponsored by Novo Nordisk.

'Few realise the devastating effect diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are having on the people and healthcare systems in Africa,' says South African Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. 'Diabetes in particular is a silent epidemic that is increasingly affecting young, productive people, and we have to address the issues of both prevention and treatment as a matter of urgency.'

Key issues discussed at the DLFA

The 2010 DLFA addressed a range of pressing issues: strengthening healthcare systems to cope with the rising incidence of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa Diabetes Care Initiative (ADCI), the link between HIV/Aids and diabetes, co-morbidity with TB, and diabetes in pregnancy.

Also under discussion were methodologies for leveraging of infrastructure already in place to deal with infectious diseases, partnering with NGOs that have developed effective grassroots programmes, attracting donor funding, and refining and monitoring an integrated approach to the management of NCDs in Africa.

A strategy to manage diabetes in Africa

'The continent's response to this issue is guided by the Diabetes Strategy for Africa, which was ratified at the IDF Congress in Cape Town in 2006,' said Dr. Motsoaledi. 'This is an integrated strategic plan for the management of diabetes and related health risks in all of the countries of the African Union.'

Progress against the objectives set out in the strategy, such as increased advocacy, the mobilisation and correct utilisation of resources, and the empowerment of all levels of society to take responsibility for individual and collective health, will form the cornerstone of the DLFA, as will Africa's participation in next year's UN summit.

The need to act

A startling 12.1 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in Africa, but the actual number is thought to be much higher, as many cases go undiagnosed. Conservative estimates suggest that as many as 24.2 million people in Africa could have impaired glucose intolerance (elevated blood sugar levels), which could lead directly to them developing diabetes.

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