When it comes to health, most people associate sub-Saharan Africa with infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

But chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and kidney diseases are on the rise. When it comes to diabetes, unfortunately there is no well-designed representative data in sub-Saharan Africa, says Elias S. Siraj, MD, the David L. Bernd Distinguished Chair for Cardiovascular and Diabetes, Professor of Internal Medicine, Chief of Endocrinology and Director of the EVMS Strelitz Diabetes Center. 

Due to those concerns, the medical journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology assembled an international expert commission to gather all the available published data regarding diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa and put it together into a single document.  Dr. Siraj was one of the 60 experts assembled from several continents.

The document they developed, published earlier this year, estimates that 3.1% of the residents in sub-Saharan Africa have diabetes and about 60 percent of those remain undiagnosed.

“The health care services remain poor and are not in a position to handle the emerging diabetes epidemic,” Dr. Siraj says. “Rates of obesity are also increasing dramatically.”

The comprehensive document will serve as an authoritative document for those who plan to study the disease in order to better understand it in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We hope that policy makers as well as international donor organizations will look at it and comprehend the seriousness of the diabetes epidemic and make appropriate adjustments in their health care priorities as well as resource allocation so that diabetes gets its well-deserved attention,” he says.