World Diabetes Day: Diabetes-free Africa and the role of women

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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Worlanyo E Gato is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Georgia Southern University. Bettye A Apenteng and Samuel T Opoku are both Assistant Professors in Health Policy & Management and Jiann-Ping Hsu is at the College of Public Health, Georgia Southern University. 

World Diabetes Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the effects of diabetes around the world particularly developing country communities.

The theme for this year’s commemoration “Women and diabetes – our right to a healthy future” is apt. If women are healthy, it will ultimately affect the entire community and nations positively.

The saying goes “if you educate a boy, you educate an individual. If you educate a girl, you educate a community”.

The key to having a diabetes free Africa is actively engaging women in efforts that promote behavioral change that leads to diabetes prevention.

Diabetes still affects millions of women in the developing world

Diabetes can be type 1 (the body does not make insulin), type 2 (the body does not make or use insulin well) and gestational (mostly in pregnant women and goes away after delivery).

However, more than half the women who develop gestational diabetes develop diabetes later in life.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, approximately over 199 million women live with diabetes and this number is expected to rise to over 313 million by 2040.

This leads to negative effects on children and community health. It is estimated that approximately 80% of diabetes cases occur in developing countries. Global diabetes-related expenditure is estimated to reach over $800 billion by 2040.

Women in the developing world and diabetes prevention in their communities

A recent paper by Worlanyo E Gato, Samuel Acquah, Bettye A Apenteng, Samuel T Opoku and Blessed K Boakye, suggests that diabetes prevention should focus on developing, implementing and promoting sustainable and culturally appropriate programs that emphasise health education related to sound diet and physical activity coupled with facilitating behavioral change.

Since women in the developing world make the crucial decisions regarding lifestyle changes and nutritional practices, educating women on the relationship between diabetes and factors such as physical activities, nutritional practices, lifestyle changes and weight management will be beneficial to preventing diabetes among women and ensure that they have a healthy future.

Read the full article “Diabetes in the Cape Coast metropolis of Ghana: an assessment of risk factors, nutritional practices and lifestyle changes” in International Health

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