In Summary
  • The socio-economic toll of the NCDs epidemics is impeding achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Policies to control advertisement of unhealthy foods, alcohol, sugary drinks and fast foods are required, especially for children.

It is very likely that every person reading this article knows somebody — a neighbour, a friend, a colleague, a relative — who has diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer.

Did you know that while our genes can predispose us to cancer or hypertension, the choices we make in life have an even greater impact on our health?

The World Diabetes Day is observed annually on November 14, and it serves as a reminder of the growing threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).


While the NCDs have historically been associated with high-income populations, they are becoming prevalent among lower income groups.

By 2030, NCD-related deaths in Africa, including Kenya, are projected to exceed the combined deaths of communicable, nutrition diseases and maternal and perinatal deaths, according to the World Health Organization NCD fact sheet 2013.

Prevention and control is now a priority issue in the National Medium Term Plan (2014-2018) and National Health Strategic Plan (2014-2018).

Diabetes is one of the major non-communicable diseases of public health importance.


There are two major forms. Type 1 diabetes is characterised by a lack of insulin production; the cause is unknown and it cannot be prevented.

Type 2 is far more common, accounting for about 90 per cent of all cases.

Often preventable, it results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin.

Most people with diabetes do not die of causes uniquely related to diabetes, but of associated cardiovascular complications, such as a heart attack.

Over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves, causing chronic problems and early death.


The burden of diabetes affects the lower-income populations hardest.

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