Diabetes is rapidly becoming a public health problem in Kenya. Statistics show that the prevalence of the disease — particularly Type 2 — has been on a steep rise in recent years owing largely to lifestyle changes.
According to International Diabetes Federation, the national prevalence rate in adults is estimated to be 4.56 per cent, with about 750,000 reported cases and 20,000 deaths every year.
Another report published jointly by the World Health Organisation and Lancet in 2016 paints an even grimier picture. It places the prevalence rate at six per cent in 2014 up from 2.4 per cent in 1980, a 150 per cent rise. It predicts that diabetes will be the seventh cause of death by 2030.
While the disease has previously been associated with the affluent First World nations, statistics show that the burden is now on the developing world with three out of four people with diabetes living in low or middle-income nations.
What is even more worrying is that very few people know their status. One in every two people living with diabetes is undiagnosed, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
The result is that a majority of the cases are diagnosed late, leading to high cost of healthcare, serious complications that often necessitate amputations, hence disabilities, and high fatality rates.
As Kenya joins the rest of the world in commemorating this year’s World Diabetes Day, it is important that more focus is placed on awareness as one way of preventing the disease, lowering the cost of healthcare and saving lives and livelihoods.
The theme of this year’s commemorations ‘The Family and Diabetes’ is also apt. The disease can have a devastating impact on family incomes, particularly when breadwinners are affected or when healthcare costs deplete family resources.
It is for this reason that fighting the disease should be high up on the list of healthcare plans both of the National and county governments and other stakeholders. This would ensure that adequate resources go towards its prevention, treatment and research towards total eradication.
As a lifestyle disease, more emphasis should be on prevention through public awareness campaigns on lifestyle choices. There is also need to improve efforts toward arresting most of the diabetes cases before it becomes to too late. Early diagnosis would cut down complications that scale up healthcare costs.
Diagnosing the disease early would also make its management easier, thus improve the quality of life for people living with diabetes.