The world is experiencing a steep rise in the number of people living with diabetes a chronic condition of significant public health concern. Many developing countries like South Africanow bear the most significant burden.
Several factors contribute to diabetes, but unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and obesity are the primary drivers. It is a costly disease and reduces the quality of life and lifespan, mainly if not appropriately managed.
11% of South African adults now live with diabetes, the highest prevalence in Africa. Most of them control their diabetes poorly. In contrast, many others are yet to be diagnosed.
Many people develop complications due to poorly controlled diabetes. These include kidney disease, cardiovascular diseases, and eye problems. Some even develop wounds that don't heal, resulting in limb amputation.
People spend more money on healthcare when they develop such complications. This places a greater burden on the already overstretched health system. Some even lose their means of livelihood, which, in turn, affects their families.
Studies have examined the level of screening for complications for people living with diabetes in South Africa. But there is little focus on the primary healthcare level. In addition, some of these studies were conducted many years ago, so the data may no longer be valid.
Eastern Cape province is part of the poorest provinces in South Africa, with a high prevalence of poorly controlled diabetes.
To control blood glucose levels and avoid complications, people with diabetes need to pay detailed attention to their health. They must be involved in their care, live a healthy life, and undergo necessary tests and examinations that help to identify potential problems quickly.
There are guidelines for diabetes management and complications screening in South Africa. Healthcare providers also have to check whether these individuals' blood glucose is controlled, so they don't develop complications that can disable them or cut their lives short.
Most people with diabetes are first managed at a healthcare facility. Here they receive medication and are supposed to check their blood glucose level at every visit.
Without urgent intervention, many people with diabetes will develop complications that could have been prevented through proper screenings. This will affect the individuals, their jobs, their families, and even the overburdened health system.
Prevention is cheaper than cure. Understanding the potential reasons for the gaps in diabetes management and finding practical solutions for improving screening coverage will cut healthcare costs, prolong the life of patients and enable them to lead a quality life.
There are approaches that the country can take. For instance, mobile health technologycan be used to facilitate screening.