Inadequate data hampers the fight against diabetes in Sub-Saharan Africa

The Ministry of Health has called for improved data collection if the country is to succeed in the fight against diabetes.

Speaking during the launch of Africa Diabetes Pacesetters initiative, Zachary Muriuki, the National Program Officer for diabetes prevention and control program at the ministry challenged doctors to facilitate the process by documenting all data collected in health facilities and sharing it with the national health data registry.

“We need to equip our national health data registry with all the findings from the healthcare facilities so that we can intervene effectively and respond to the needs on the ground. We cannot do this alone, we need to work with all the clinicians who are the main interface with our patients,” he said.

Muriuki added that the Ministry of Health is committed to having strategic public-private partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the health sector in order to implement programs and initiatives that improve quality and comprehensive diabetes care.

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“This initiative will make a difference in the areas of research, scientific writing, and publications in the area of diabetes in the sub-Saharan region that will inform policy, decision making, and practice,” said Muriuki.

The call for more data-driven interventions comes at a time when the disease continues to exact a heavy toll on the continent.

It is estimated that seven out of ten adults with Type 2 diabetes are not aware and hence not on any medication. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that more than 15.9 million people have the disease with the figure set to increase by 162 per cent by 2045.

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Dr Mary Ngome, the clinical medical regulatory quality manager at Novo Nordisk Middle Africa says available information shows the continent’s diet and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to the rising cases of diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa. 

“Our carbohydrate-rich foods, lack of exercise and late screening are the key risk factors in our region. By the time one presents himself to a medical facility, the disease is usually at an advanced stage requiring immediate attention,” she says.

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She said delayed diagnosis increases the risk of kidney damage, heart disease, blindness, neural damage leading to amputations and an overall reduced life expectancy.

The late stage complications are also the most costly to treat and impact the financial situation of an entire family and halt overall economic development.

The Africa Diabetes Pacesetters workshop in Nairobi has 20 physicians from 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa who are being trained on how to deliver effective scientific and medical presentations to stakeholders.

They will also learn how to write research articles and the publishing process.

“We cannot underestimate the increasing role of real world data and real world evidence in informing policy and healthcare decisions. We will continue to play a key role in patient awareness, training healthcare professionals and strengthening healthcare systems,” said Vinay Ransiwal, General Manager of Novo Nordisk Middle Africa.

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