Diabetes could soon become Botswana’s next health crisis. With diabetes being one of the most expensive health care industries in the world, research conducted by various international organisations cautions that a perfect storm awaits Botswana in the coming years if the country fails to come up with a funding plan for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and address the inequity between public and private sector health.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the number of deaths from diabetes in Botswana from 2009 to 2019 increased by 40.1%. IHME is an independent health research center that provides comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. The IHME research also shows that deaths from diabetes from 2009 to 2019 were higher than other NCDs such as heart disease and stroke which registered a death rate increase of 31% and 18.8% respectively.
While Botswana might find comfort in the fact that deaths from HIV/AIDS between 2009 and 2019 registered a decrease of -29.1%, pundits say the same enthusiasm that has been used to fight HIV/AIDS should also be used to fight NCDs. If Botswana does not direct its efforts towards fighting the burden of NCDs, then chances are high that NCDs and conditions such as cancer and cardio vascular diseases will move closer to becoming the greatest threats to human lives in Botswana.
The Global Burden of Disease Study also estimates that the next 25 years will be a defining period for Botswana as the number of diabetes cases are expected to grow exponentially. There are three main types of diabetes being Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes also called type 2 diabetes mellitus is the most common type in Botswana and mainly occurs in adults between the 20 to 79 age range and is characterised by high levels of sugar in the blood.
In 2019, the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is the specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health stated that 6% (approximately 138 000 people) of the population in Botswana had diabetes. “A healthy diet, regular physical activity, maintaining a normal body weight and avoiding tobacco use are ways to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes,” says WHO. This might prove to be a challenge in Botswana as the rising prevalence of diabetes is linked to the increase in obesity and other lifestyle changes such as poor eating habits and lack of physical activity. WHO estimates that almost 25% of the population in Botswana is categorised as physically inactive.
Currently the world has nine NCD targets to be achieved by the year 2025 some of which include decreasing tobacco use by a third, reducing physical inactivity by ten per cent as well as reduction of alcohol use and salt intake. On average, people diagnosed with diabetes have medical expenditures approximately two and half times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.Diabetes can be treated and its consequences avoided or delayed with diet, physical activity, medication and regular screening and treatment for complications.