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  • Writer's pictureDeryck Browne


Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, inhibits the body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels. A serious long term health condition, it is also a growing public health problem, as 2.8 million people in the UK (around 4.6% of the population) suffer from diabetes, while around one million people have diabetes but are unaware of it. Some groups are more susceptible to the condition. Africans are five times more likely than the rest of the population to have diabetes. This is due to a complex set of factors including genetics, diet and socio-economic conditions.

Key facts

  • Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to obesity. This is particularly worrying for the UK’s African population – according to 2004 statistics; Black African women had the highest obesity prevalence of all ethnic groups – 38%.

  • Both diabetes and obesity are increasingly associated with deprivation. People living in lower income households are more likely to be obese, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes threefold. Statistics show that Africans are more likely to live in deprivation than the rest of the population.

  • Diabetes is also linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, both of which are more likely in lower income households.

  • Not only are African people more at risk, they are also less likely to receive quality treatment and information if diagnosed, and to have the resources to manage this complex disease, exposing them to further risk of developing other health problems, including the psychological difficulties such as depression that are commonly associated with the condition.

Our view

AHPN notes the worrying evidence that Africans are at a twofold risk of diabetes – genetic and socio-economic. The statistics linking diabetes and deprivation have strong implications for the African community. Africans are among the groups susceptible to diabetes from an earlier age – the NHS Health Check programme only covers people between the ages of 40 and 74. AHPN would like to see the NHS health check age limit lowered for Africans and other groups, or other prevention strategies put in place for the 25-40 age group.

Useful links

Act on Diabetes. Now Diabetes education and prevention is the theme for World Diabetes Day 14th November 2009 - 2013. 

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