Diabetes mellitus in Zambia and the Western Cape province of South Africa: Prevalence, risk factors, diagnosis and management


Bailey SL, Ayles H, Beyers N, Godfrey-Faussett P, Muyoyeta M, du Toit E, Yudkin DS, Floyd S.


Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2016 Aug; 118:1-11. doi: 10.1016



To determine the prevalence of and risk factors for diabetes mellitus and examine its diagnosis and management in the study communities.


This is a population-based cross-sectional study among adults in 24 communities from Zambia and the Western Cape (WC) province of South Africa. Diabetes is defined as a random blood glucose concentration (RBG) ⩾ 11.1 mmol/L, or RBG < 11.1 mmol/L but with a self-reported prior diabetes diagnosis. For individuals with a prior diagnosis of diabetes, RBG < 7.8 mmol/L was considered to be an acceptable level of glycaemia.


Among 45,767 Zambian and 12,496 WC participants the age-standardised prevalence of diabetes was 3.5% and 7.2% respectively. The highest risk groups identified were those of older age and those with obesity. Of those identified to have diabetes, 34.5% in Zambia and 12.7% in WC were previously unaware of their diagnosis. Among Zambian participants with diabetes, this proportion was lower among individuals with better education or with higher household socio-economic position. Of all those with previously diagnosed diabetes, 66.0% in Zambia and 59.4% in WC were not on any diabetes treatment, and 34.4% in Zambia and 32.7% in WC had a RBG concentration beyond the recommended level, ⩾7.8 mmol/L.


The diabetes risk factor profile for our study communities is similar to that seen in high-income populations. A high proportion of individuals with diabetes are not on diabetes treatment and of those on treatment a high proportion have high glycaemic concentrations. Such data may assist in healthcare planning to ensure timely diagnosis and management of diabetes.

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