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World Diabetes Day: Businesses In Africa Should Support Their Workforce

  • 3 min read

Know your risk. Know your response

Currently, 24 million adults are living with diabetes in Africa. This figure is projected to rise by 129% to 55 million by 2045. The mortality rate due to diabetes has also increased. Premature deaths from diabetes in Africa stand at 58%, higher than the global average of 48%.

According to International SOS, diabetes prevention and effective treatment are becoming increasingly critical. “While the WHO Global Diabetes Compact aims to drive better prevention, diagnosis and management of the condition, the importance of communities working together to combat this global issue cannot be overstated,” says Dr Chris van Straten, Global Health Advisor, Clinical Governance at International SOS. “And corporates have a fundamental role to play here, not only in creating awareness but also ensuring employees with diabetes are supported on multiple levels . Diabetes is a complex disease that affects multiple organ systems and multiple aspects of a person’s life making it essential that the individual receives wholistic support, including psychological support”.

Access to Diabetes Care is also the theme for this year’s World Diabetes Day, highlighting the fact that millions of people with diabetes do not have access to diabetes care,  and that those who do, still require ongoing care and support to manage their condition optimally in order to avoid complications.

“Diabetes can impact an employee’s ability to engage in everyday activities, especially if they have developed complications. It is important to understand the needs of your employees with diabetes and ensure they are supported as much as possible,” adds Dr van Straten. Ideally the work environment should enable and empower individuals with diabetes to effectively manage their condition and enable staff to contribute and engage productively in the workplace. Companies that support effective health and wellness campaigns and focus on keeping their staff fitter and healthier are seeing returns on their investment.

It is also extremely beneficial for organisations to provide ongoing education on nutrition and medication, guidance on how to self-monitor their condition and provide access and flexibility for regular check-ups.

“Since the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is linked to lifestyle, organisations should also promote ways to encourage healthier living and look at initiatives that promote work-life balance, healthy eating, regular physical activities and mental wellbeing as these practices not only help to create a healthier, more effective workforce, but can also support the workforce in reducing their risk of diabetes as well as other non-communicable diseases,” says Dr van Straten. Who wins from this approach? Everyone – including the business. Healthy, fit and engaged staff drive a healthy and efficient business.

Full time employees spend more than one-third of their day, five days a week, at the workplace – which means the workplace provides an opportune setting through which a large part of the population can be supported through workplace education and wellness programmes. 

“Organisations need to improve their diabetes response. Diabetes is often called the ‘silent killer’ and businesses need to start prioritising the health, safety and wellbeing of their workforce beyond ticking the box activities. They need to enable conversations, dispel stigma and introduce tailored initiatives which everyone can benefit from. With the right education, skills, motivation, tools, and social support, organisations can make a fundamental impact not only to the bottom-line, but to their employees, their community and in the broader fight against diabetes,” concludes Dr van Straten.