(Published - 14 August 2018)
“Diabetes is a growing health scourge in South Africa and the rest of the continent. If we want to beat it, we’ll need help - so let’s beat it together.”
So said Professor Thandi Puoane of the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) School of Public Health (SOPH), speaking at the appropriately-named “Let’s Beat It Together” engagement on Wednesday, 8 August 2018, at Andile Msizi Hall at Site B, Khayelitsha.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is the most common form of diabetes, occurring primarily as a result of poor diet and lack of sufficient physical activity - which most often leads to obesity. These factors are compounded by genetic and environmental ones.
Management typically involves adherence to medication, exercise and healthy eating, and regular monitoring of blood sugar levels.
“Let’s Beat It Together is part of our awareness campaign focusing on self-management and community support in both the prevention and management of Type 2 diabetes,” said Mariam Hassen, Project Coordinator at the SOPH.
“The main aim is to assist and encourage those already diagnosed and those at risk of being diagnosed with the disease to change their diet and increase physical activity levels, so as to reduce their risk for diabetes - and cardiovascular disease.”
The event was attended by community members, representatives of NGOs, and community-based organisations, among others.
The programme included brief presentations by invited guests, focusing mainly on the topic of self-management of diabetes and community activities in this regard. Attendees were urged to reduce fat, salt and sugar intake, as well as the consumption of fizzy drinks and fast foods - and to increase their level of exercise and everyday physical activity.
There’s a misconception that healthy eating can be expensive, Prof Puoane noted - but there are many ways to get there. Some of us also believe that a large body size is a sign of happiness and being affluent, but unfortunately this may lead to diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Hi Hi (High blood pressure) and cancer.
“Most of us already know that it’s healthier to eat food that has more vegetables, and less sugary and salty snacks,” said Prof Puoane. “But I appeal to the community at large - to all our people - to stand up and take responsibility for their health, and the health of their friends and family.”
Free blood sugar and blood pressure testing was also provided to attendees.
SMART Living: Managing Diabetes at the School of Public Health
The SOPH has a number of research programmes looking at non-communicable diseases, including diabetes. The research focuses in particular on systems approaches to understanding the factors associated with disease and wellness, and how to address these through public health interventions.
The Let’s Beat It Together activity forms part of UWC’s community engagement and is linked to the SMART2D initiative (Self-Management Approach and Reciprocal Learning for Type 2 Diabetes), a multi-country study which is conducted in South Africa, Uganda, and Sweden.
The study, currently in its final year, aims to develop and test new approaches to tackling and substantially reducing T2DM and its complications among populations in low-, middle- and high-income countries, and is supported through a grant from the European Union Horizon2020 Programme.