Diabetes and cardiovascular disease risks heighten as fewer people are doing health screenings

Obesity is a problem in South Africa. Picture: Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Unsplash

Obesity is a problem in South Africa. Picture: Towfiqu Barbhuiya / Unsplash

Published Mar 13, 2024


Research conducted between 2019 and 2023 has found that health screening rates were lower than they should be and that obesity was the most common health risk facing South Africans.

The research was conducted by Discovery Vitality, who said only six out of every 10 of their clients were screening for their health at least once in the past three years.

They found that a lot of people were living with diseases, unaware, which allowed them to pose further risks to their health.

Globally, in 2022, cardiovascular disease caused 19.8 million deaths.

In 2019, diabetes mellitus was the leading underlying, natural cause of death in South Africa, contributing to more than 26,000 deaths.

Dr Mosima Mabunda, the head of wellness at Discovery Vitality warned.

“Across the globe, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are leading causes of death, disability, and poor health. Alarmingly, nearly half of adults living with hypertension or diabetes are unaware that they have these conditions.

“Powerfully, our most recent analysis demonstrates the effectiveness of screening to access appropriate treatment.”

As many people are not aware they have these conditions, it means they don’t receive the necessary care which increases the risk of the disease progressing.

“A simple way to address this, is through health screening. However, screening rates are lower than they should be. Six out of 10 Vitality members have not completed a health screening in the past three years. We hope to change this,” said Dr Mabunda.

The analysis compared data from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein and Gqeberha – and showed Johannesburg had the lowest overall percentage of members with at least one high-risk health outcome, including the lowest percentage of members with high-risk weight status and blood cholesterol results.

Meanwhile, Vitality members in Gqeberha had the highest overall percentage of risks for cardiometabolic diseases, driven by high-risk weight status, blood pressure, and smoking status.

Durban had the lowest percentage of smokers, but the highest percentage of high-risk blood glucose and blood cholesterol.

Dinesh Govender, the chief executive of Vitality, said that with these insights, Discovery Vitality aims to elevate awareness of the importance of screening.

“The positive health and cost outcomes among Vitality members who have regular health screenings are associated with healthier lifestyle choices following a health screening.

“Regular health screening creates an understanding of health risks and knowing the next action in managing our health,” adds Govender.

Dr Mabunda said encouraging health checks is associated with engagement in lifestyle behaviours and linkages to much-needed care to manage possible chronic conditions.

“With the growing burden of cardiometabolic risks globally, we need a renewed focus on prevention, treatment, and control strategies.

“Health screening has significant cost-saving implications for healthcare systems. The data in our analysis is clear, health screening is an essential step towards knowing how we start to address the high rates of cardiometabolic diseases. Everyone should be encouraged to screen.”