Cape Town - The South African Diabetes Alliance (Sada) has written an open letter to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla calling on him to urgently implement education programmes to fight diabetes.
More than 4,2 million South Africans are suffering from diabetes, Sada warns, and a sizable amount of people were not even aware they were living with it.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, close to 537 million adults between 20-79 years are living with diabetes around the world.
At the same time diabetes also costs the country nearly R70 billion due to medical procedures.
Speaking to eNCA, Sada chairperson Patrick Ngassa Piotie said that most type two diabetic people might not have any symptoms as a result of a high-level of glucose in the blood and a person can live almost for 10 years without noticing it.
He also said that with the latest statistics showing an increase in people who are diabetic the matter has come to the point where it has become a public crisis and the number one cause of death in South Africa.
“We are in a situation where diabetes kills more people than HIV and that on its own is already a case of concern.
“Then you have a projection in the number of cases increasing over the years is quite frightening because we keep on doubling the number of cases we already have at the moment. We believe that if something is not done the crisis is going to worsen in the future,” he said.
Piotie said this year's international theme “education to protect tomorrow” doesn't fit in a South Africa context because based on the knowledge and different studies they have seen clearly shows that the knowledge of diabetes is very poor from the people with the condition themselves.
In commemorating World Diabetes Day, the Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale has urged South Africans to know their diabetic and general health status through regular screening and testing, for early detection and successful treatment of this potentially life threatening condition in order to live a long and healthy lifestyle.
“We have been working closely with non-governmental organisations, development partner organisations, academic and research institutions, to develop the five-year Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) for the period 2022-2027, as part of the co-ordinated efforts to intensify the fight against the NCDs like diabetes," Mohale said.
Meanwhile, Sada’s open letter said: “An urgent cohesive national diabetes education programme targeting people living with diabetes, their families and healthcare workers is needed.
“A national diabetes education programme will ensure that all South Africans living with diabetes and their families receive structured and standardised quality education, which will lead to better health outcomes,” the letter further reads.