Address root causes of diabetes, improve care

Africa has highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes cases. File photo

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Diabetes. 
  • Our view:Government should, in addition to sensitisation about prevention, provide insulin and other medicines to those living with the condition.

Health experts have warned that they are registering a rise in cases of diabetes among young people and those with normal weight, contrary to what often comes to mind when we think about diabetes.

For long, diabetes has been linked to obesity and old age but there is a shift.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas, an organ in the body, does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The two stories published last week by Daily Monitor; ‘Young and diabetic: the troubles we go through’ and ‘Hospitals detect high prevalence of diabetes among people with normal weight’ painted a picture of this shift. 

The most challenging bit is that health experts are not very sure about the exact causes of diabetes among young people and those with normal weight. But for diabetes in lean people, the experts pointed to malnutrition during pregnancy which causes poor development of the pancreas and hence low production of insulin.

Some researchers also think there could be some genes inherited from their parents that increase one’s risk of development the chronic disease. There are also investigations to determine whether some underlying diseases such as viral infections could be triggering the disease, and also whether pesticides and some vaccines could be causing the spike.

With limited knowledge about the disease, government should increase funding towards understanding diabetes among children and lean people to curb the severe effects of the disease.

Apart from being one of the most expensive disease to manage, diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. 

Between 2000 and 2016, there was a 5 per cent increase in premature mortality from diabetes on the global scale, according to the WHO. According to the Ministry of Health, about 33 per cent of deaths in the country are caused by non-communicable disease which diabetes falls under.
But it is also a known fact that many people are developing diabetes because of excess body weight, physical inactivity and tobacco use.

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet tea, energy drinks and juice increase our risk. Processed foods like chips, processed meat, fried foods, dairy-free coffee creamers are also categorised by health experts as unhealthy and increasing our risk of developing the condition.

Government should, in addition to sensitisation about prevention and increase screening services for diabetes, provide insulin and other medicines to those living with the condition to prevent premature deaths.


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