Once upon a time, diabetes was a scarce disease in Africa. It was then justified to think that such a disease was only the concern of the wealthy and rich. This time is beyond obsolete. In effect, diabetes is Africa’s problem today. In 2010, 12.1 million adults were estimated to be diabetic on the continent, with only 15% diagnosed. By 2030, it is estimated that 23.9 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa will have diabetes, which would then be the highest rate of diabetes in any region of the world.
Once again, these figures show us how much chronic diseases are under mediatized and under diagnosed. We should not wait for these figures to attain their maximum for action to be taken.
I have always been an advocate for a healthy lifestyle. Knowing that regular physical activity and a healthy diet can prevent some chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes, one can only be astonished to see diabetes rates increasing that much on the continent.
It is believed that urbanization is a direct cause to the expansion of diabetes in Africa. Indeed, the sedentary lifestyle that has been installing itself throughout the years has seen a serious decrease in physical activities. Public transports and the office oriented type of work mean that people are walking and thus exercising a lot less than before.
Another link to diabetes is obesity. It is time to stop thinking that so-called poor countries do not have a significant problem of obesity. The fact is that it is existent and more than that, because it is not seen as an issue, it constitutes a bigger threat in these societies.
It is common to hear that beauty criteria in Africa are extremely different than those of western societies. While it is important to keep this diversity and to not promote the skinny attitude, a beauty criterion such as being overtly curvy does not come without its risks.
In societies where an increased level of body fat is associated with beauty, prosperity, health, and prestige, it is even more important to try and campaign for a change of mentality.
Diabetes is a deadly disease that can be avoided for the most part. Not only can it cause serious grief, but it can also cause an economical problem and even societal problem. Those affected by it are often adults and breadwinners. If the latter dies, a family can see itself plunged into a state of poverty in a continent ill-equipped to deal with such eventualities. Or children can easily become orphans and forced to rely on themselves, which often means begging and street living.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Engage Africa Foundation's Staff.