Diabetes has become South Africa’s new tsunami and an epidemic, health experts said during the launch of the Tshwane Insulin Project at the University of Pretoria’s (UP) in September 2018. A 261% increase was projected for diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa between the year 2000 and 2013. According to Professor Paul Rheeder, “We, together with the Congo, are the African leaders in diabetes. It is frightening that more people in Africa die from diabetes than malaria, HIV and TB put together, so diabetes is definitely the new tsunami, the new epidemic of this century,”.The Tshwane Insulin project, in partnership with Eli Lilly and Company, committed to embark on a five-year research programme and aims to optimize the control of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipids in people with diabetes.
The programme is made of a series of studies from a knowledge, attitudes and practices survey (Phase 1), a review of the legal and policy framework for insulin use in primary care (Phase 2), an exploratory trial(phase 3) followed by a stepped wedge cluster randomised trial (Phase 4)and the implementation of the intervention into routine care (Phase 5). Prof Stephanie Burton, Vice-Principal of Research and Postgraduate Education, said this project is not only relevant but also impactful, making this the type of research UP should be supporting. Rheeder noted that the initiation and up-titration of insulin in primary care in the country has been identified as a major challenge in diabetes care and achieving optimal insulin control. He said, “this was due to the lack of healthcare practitioners trained in insulin use, scarcity of resources and psychological insulin resistance by patients”.
Dr Yogan Pillay mentioned that according to the 2016 data by Statistics SA, an estimated 1.8million adults are living with diabetes in South Africa. However, he highlighted that diabetes was strongly associated with obesity, which was a huge problem faced by the country. “You can’t deal with diabetes without dealing with obesity. We tell patients to eat a balanced meal, but it’s not easy when you come from low socio-economic circumstances to eat a balanced meal.” He told delegates who attended the launch that they needed to figure out how to deal with obesity in order to deal with diabetes