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156% rise in diabetes: what’s the answer?

The 2nd annual Diabetes Frontier Africa conference is in Johannesburg this week, and has some big questions to answer. Medical researchers continue to highlight the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes on our healthcare infrastructure. Due to a lack of current prevalence data and worryingly low rates of diagnosis in sub-Saharan Africa, it is expected that the International Diabetes Federation projected 156% rise in the disease could well be short of the eventual reality.

How to educate the public about diabetes


In an effort to avoid this worrying outcome; government, medical professionals and social influencers will meet in November to discuss ways to educate the public and mitigate many of the challenges South Africa faces in dealing with diabetes. Diabetes advocates including Sophie Ndaba-Lichaba (entrepreneur and actress) and representatives from Gauteng MEC for Health, Gwendoline Malegwale Ramokgopa’s department will join global medical professionals at the 2nd annual Diabetes Frontier Africa conference. Key on the agenda will be the issue of developing societal shifts in SA to help alleviate the challenges of scarce resources in fighting diabetes.

Limited medical resources


Due to a myriad of medical complications, including organ failure, loss of sight and limbs as well as sexual dysfunction, diabetes casts a wide shadow of burden on already limited medical resources. This is especially problematic in low income and rural areas with limited medical staff and beds to deal with the supportive care needed to deal with diabetic complications. Complications which could be largely managed through a consistent and widespread campaign of awareness to fight myths and stigma in these communities.

The stigma around diabetes is particularly complex in SA as patients are not only judged for falling sick or becoming obese, but also for taking their treatment seriously. Insulin injections, exercise, maintaining a strict diet and weight-loss have all been linked with negative social response in many of the communities worst affected by the disease.

Diabetes advocacy


Recently, diabetes advocate Sophie Lichaba was at the centre of body shaming attacks directed to her and husband, businessman Max Lichaba on social media. Attacks that laid bare the very real problem of SA society assuming that obesity is a sign of affluence while weight-loss is an indication of terminal illness and bad lifestyle choices.

The expert panel led by top London-based researcher, Dr Louise Goff will join Lichaba to discuss challenges and strategies in citizen advocacy at the event that coincides with World Diabetes Day (14 November). Dr Goff’s research focuses on how ethnicity impacts on the pathophysiological development of Type 2 diabetes. Her research team are working on culturally-tailored self- management programmes for diabetes.

The role of technology and data science will also be highlighted with Dr Vukosi Marivate from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Mr Norman Moyo from Cumii Technologies expected to discuss ways that professionals and caregivers can leverage emerging technologies to help with diabetes care.

Diabetes conference line-up


Here’s the entire line-up of impressive names in diabetes:

Join global endocrinology researchers, nutrition experts, policy makers and top medical journalists for networking and collaboration in fighting this growing epidemic.

Conference chairperson: Dr Sundeep Ruder (Clinical Endocrinologist, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital; Lecturer, University of the Witwatersrand)

Speakers for the event include the following top experts:

Dr Bongi Ngema Zuma (Former 1st Lady of RSA and CEO – Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation)

Dr Gwendoline Malegwale Ramokgopa (MEC – Gauteng Department of Health)

Dr Louise Goff (Senior Researcher, Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences Division Kings College London)

Dr Bo Liu (Researcher, Diabetes Research Group Kings College London)

Dr Chibuzo Anaso (Diabetologist, Western Cape Department of Health and CEO Anaso Diabetes Foundation)

Mr Norman Moyo (Chief Executive Officer, Cumii Technologies – a subsidiary of Econet Group)

Dr Vukosi Marivate (ABSA Chair of Data, University of Pretoria and Senior Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR])

Sophie Ndaba-Lichaba (Entrepreneur, Actress, Diabetes advocate)

Dr Charlotte Boughton (Clinical Researcher, University of Cambridge Metabolic Research Laboratories)

Book your tickets to the event here!


Photo by Antenna on Unsplash
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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.