The International Diabetes Federation reports an average of three and a half million people in South Africa are living with diabetes. Three and a half million of us struggling with the insufficient production of insulin by our bodies – and many more undiagnosed. There is no question that diabetes is one of the most common healthcare concerns of South Africa and its citizens. So what diabetes treatment updates are there?
Well, there are reasons to hope and possibly celebrate. Recent years have seen great advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes globally. Scientists and medical professionals alike continue to work tirelessly in pursuit of a clinically tested and dependable way to improve the lives of those living with diabetes and possibly prevent the diagnosis of further cases. That work is beginning to show with some great breakthroughs in the treatment of diabetes. Here are some treatment advancements coming to the forefront and what it may mean for diabetes patients across South Africa.
Diabetes treatment options are changing
In 2016, the world received word of the first artificial pancreas being brought to the market for the first time. Although distribution and availability of the system remain fully explored, it is certainly garnering attention for its ability to help patients living with Type 1 diabetes by reducing the chances of hypoglycemia. The development has been cited by many studies as having the ability to transform diabetes by offering improved glycemic control. It responds to either low or high glucose levels and automatically adjusts the insulin levels accordingly.
With overwhelming success rates, South Africans saw the first version launch in 2009 along with Europe before later being expanded upon and eventually approved by the FDA in the United States of America. New drugs such as empagliflozin have also shown a great deal of promise in reducing cardiovascular risk. South Africa’s senior population has one of the highest cardiovascular risks in the world and this is directly linked to diabetes. The most common causes of death in diabetic patients have been shown to be either stroke or heart disease.
New development in insulin treatment for diabetes
For those living with diabetes, insulin is a key part of their daily lives. Diabetes means the body is unable to process glucose which in turn affects blood sugar. This is caused by the body either producing too little insulin or the insulin produced not working properly. Another exciting development in recent years is the development of longer lasting and more efficient medication for those having to do regular injections of insulin. Technological inventions such as the insulin pen by Timesulin are especially aimed at the senior population. The pen tells you when you last took an insulin dose. The device is now widely available from distributors in South Africa and has been largely welcomed.
Diabetes awareness is shifting
Public awareness around South Africa and amongst South Africans about diabetes is changing. Organisations such as SEMDSA (the Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa) have released updated guidelines alluding to dietary guidelines for those with diabetes. The government is playing its part as well with an announced sugar tax taking effect in April 2018.
The Sugar Beverage Levy dictates that for beverages with sugar content exceeding 4g per 100ml is taxed at 2.1 cents per gram of sugar content. The tax is apart of the Healthy Living initiative being pursued by the government and saw information roadshows being held across South Africa to educate the public about the tax. Introduction of a sugar tax is hoped to deter the consumption of sugary beverages, a large trigger for patients and also a contributing factor for being diagnosed with diabetes in the first place.
Diabetes awareness in the workplace
Corporate wellness programs are now being offered by employers and more food establishments and canteens across South Africa are offering healthier options. More and more online resources and publications are promoting the need and tips for healthy eating on a budget. With over 37 percent of the population not being able to afford an adequate healthy diet thanks to food prices, the timing of these promotions is perfect.
Although these steps are certainly in the right direction, there remains a long way to go in fighting the spread of diabetes in South Africa. Better education along with an increased priority on healthcare lists are among some of the pressing options. By preventing and treating diabetes early, it is not only the country’s population that stands to benefit greatly, but also its economic standing.