The first worldwide diabetes prevention programme started its roll-out in England during April this year. The first phase of the programme will cover 27 areas and about 26 million people, attempting to prevent the occurrence Diabetes type-2 in high risk individuals. This programme will be extremely valuable in proving how preventative medicine is more effective than treatment when considering the costs of treating the chronic disease of diabetes.
This is according to Dr Dominque Stott, Executive: Medical Standards and Services at PPS, who states that the sheer scale of this project makes it a very ambitious one, but if it does achieve its objectives, it will prevent mortality and morbidity in a huge sector of the United Kingdom’s population. “Implementation of such programmes requires big monetary investment, commitment by all parties and a strong vision of the resultant benefits. It is clear that any nation, especially South Africa, will benefit from programmes that encourage people to become healthier and prevent diabetes.”
According to the South African Department of Health (DoH), 70% of women and 30% of men in South Africa are obese and making the country the most obese nation in sub-Saharan Africa. “The DoH indicated strategic objectives in 2012 to reduce obesity levels to 55% in women and 21% in men by 2017/2018 – but little appears to have been achieved regarding these objectives. The recent introduction of sugar tax is however a good start in the fight against obesity. Diseases related to being overweight and unhealthy have a long lead time, therefore the earlier such initiatives are rolled-out, the fewer people will eventually go on to develop diabetes.”
The UK Diabetes Prevention Programme will refer people for personalised programmes which will assist them with weight loss, exercise and eating plans, says Dr Stott. “People typically lose huge amounts of weight when they are following a strict programme but unfortunately regain even more weight once they have completed the programme, which highlights the critical importance of regular check-ups. Monitoring of all the people involved in the programme is possibly the most important factor for the success of such an initiative.”
Recently, the City of Johannesburg has joined the international Cities Changing Diabetes programme which will aim to understand and address diabetes drivers affecting people. While this is a step in the right direction, more has to be done to lower obesity levels in the country, she states. “A programme of this nature will prevent consumers from developing potentially life threatening conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease or kidney disease. She believes that the cost of treating these diseases and possible complications are vastly more expensive than the implementation of a diabetes prevention programme.”
“It is also vital that these programmes target the youth of the country. The Human Research and Sciences Council stated in 2016 that about 28% of children in South Africa between the ages of two and 14 are overweight or obese. Children must be taught that healthy eating habits and exercise are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle and these habits should be fostered at schools and homes,” says Dr Stott.
According to her, the implementation of a similar programme in South Africa will also be vastly beneficial for the life and health insurance industry, as a healthy population is so much easier to insure.
“Preventing the onset of diabetes would mean that insurance providers will not have to underwrite or decline policy applications for people who have already developed the disease. By the time someone has developed this condition they have led a fairly unhealthy lifestyle for many years, causing underlying damage to their heart, eyes and kidneys which in turn causes life insurer to be reluctant to take the person on their books at standard rates,” she concludes.