WHO wants laws over rising diabetes burden

14Nov 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
WHO wants laws over rising diabetes burden

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has called on Tanzania and other African countries to enact laws and implement policies that lead to healthy lifestyles to avert the burden of diabetes which consumes a huge chunk of sufferers’ incomes.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti

In his message on the World Diabetes Day 2019, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has urged families across the region to maintain healthy diets by consuming less than six teaspoons of sugar each day - including sugar added to foods and beverages - and opting for sugars in honey and fruit juices.

“Checking individual body weight, body mass index and blood sugar annually in the general population and more often for people at higher risk of diabetes should be encouraged,” the statement reads in part.

Dr Moeti said it is possible that through collaboration to reduce diabetes, it is vital to ensure quality care for people living with diabetes as part of universal health coverage, and promote better wellbeing for families across the region.

WHO says already Seychelles and South Africa have enacted laws to tax sugar-sweetened beverages, which will contribute to reduced consumption – in turn, preventing obesity and diabetes.

He said this year’s theme is “the family and diabetes” and has been deliberately chosen because managing diabetes impacts not only the patient, but those closest to them.

The chronic disease requires a healthy lifestyle, with daily treatment and monitoring, with associated health-care costs capable of pushing families into poverty.

In the Africa Region, the prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled from 3.1percent in 1980 to 7.1percent in 2014, the statement indicated.

WHO is working with countries across Africa to improve prevention and management of diabetes, which includes building capacity to monitor the burden through surveys using the WHO STEP wise approach to non-communicable disease surveillance (STEPS).

It also seeks to ensure that health services for diabetes are available as part of primary health care, using the WHO Package of Essential non- communicable Diseases (PEN) services.

People who live with diabetes in Tanzania spend a large proportion of their income on treatment. As a result, the condition imposes a large economic burden on individuals, families and national health systems.

Experts say that the data showing exact prevalence of diabetes is still hard to come by as this type of non-communicable diseases is still largely under-researched.

However, according to the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) there were more than 822,800 cases of diabetes in Tanzania in 2015.

In the 1980s the prevalence of type 2 diabetes within Tanzania was among the lowest in the world, with about 0.8 per cent in cities and about 0.9 per cent in rural areas. However, the disease poses an increased economic burden on the population nowadays, as well as on the national budget for health care.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the number of people living with diabetes is expected to more than double by 2030.

Today, diabetes takes more lives than AIDS and breast cancer combined. It is a leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke, the UN agency underlined.

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