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​November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which is a time to focus on creating awareness about the symptoms and causes of diabetes and how to reduce the chance of developing it.

The City of Johannesburg’s Health Department is increasing its effort to help residents understand diabetes and the importance of improving the health and lives of those who are affected by it.

The World Health Organisation observes World Diabetes Day annually on 14 November. The theme for this year is “Family and Diabetes”, which aims to raise awareness on the impact diabetes has on the family and the support network of those affected by it.

Joburg Health conducts health education in clinics about​ diabetes. Nurses and health promoters are also being trained about diabetes and its link to nutrition. The health education focuses on the range of free services available at the City’s clinics and on healthy lifestyle choices to mitigate and control diabetes.

Hlubikazi Ntamehlo, the Deputy Director of Public Health in the City of Johannesburg, says:  “The aim is to make people aware of the social and economic effects of diabetes on the family and to promote the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes.” 

“You can control diabetes by going for simple tests at your local clinic. This will show if you have diabetes and require additional examination and treatment. Talk to a healthcare worker about your health results. They will explain how your diabetes can be controlled. Some people need pills, other injections and some don’t need medicine at all.”

Last year, it was reported that about 6% of South Africans (about 3.5 million) people suffer from diabetes and 5 million more are estimated to have pre-diabetes, which is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered as diabetes.

Diabetes is an endocrine disorder in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to the hormone insulin is impaired, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Types of diabetes are Type One (1) – Insulin dependent DM- insufficient levels of insulin and Type Two (2) – Non-insulin dependent DM- unresponsiveness or resistance of cells to insulin. 

The signs and symptoms of diabetes include, among others, excessive thirst; frequent urination; feeling very hungry;  fatigue; blurred vision; irritability; weight loss even if you eat more and slow healing wounds. 

“We want to encourage residents to do free screening for diabetes at our clinics. Let us work together – families, communities and government – to beat diabetes,” says Ntamehlo.