An SA first: University of Pretoria launches Diabetes Research Centre

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  • The University of Pretoria has launched a Diabetes Research Centre.
  • Experts say they want to work toward improving diabetes care in South Africa.
  • There are millions of people in the country suffering from the disease.

The University of Pretoria has launched the country's first exclusive Diabetes Research Centre, an initiative to address several facets of and factors around the disease.

The centre is situated in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the university but, according to a release, it will adopt a transdisciplinary approach and work across faculties to develop research to improve the lives of people with diabetes.

The University Senate approved the initiative in November 2020. It is already operational, and its main project is currently the Tshwane Insulin Project (TIP).

TIP is said to impact the lives of those living with type 2 diabetes "as they transition from oral drugs to insulin through the implementation of a nurse-driven, app-enabled and community-orientated intervention".

New generation of African investigators

The centre's senior project manager, Dr Patrick Ngassa Piotie, recently said, "Being a university, we want to keep producing scientific knowledge that is relevant and impactful.

"In the long term, we want to develop researchers, a new generation of African investigators in translation and health systems research and implementation science."

The centre is focused on organising its research strategy around six clusters:

  • The prevention of diabetes
  • Diabetes management in primary healthcare
  • Diabetes management in hospitals
  • Gestational diabetes (a form of diabetes developed during pregnancy)
  • Diabetes in children and adolescents
  • Diabetes technology

Because the centre uses a multiple disciplinary approach, various experts will conduct research and uncover new information. 

"It is a holistic approach to address the challenges around diabetes, from prevention to care, and will lead to a new vision in diabetes research," said Piotie.

Millions living with diabetes in SA

Several experts from different divisions have already pitched proposals.

Some aim to either expand on existing research or embark on uncovering new information around the disease.

Coupled with conducting research, the centre will also provide workshops and courses for healthcare providers.

South Africa has more than 4.5 million people living with diabetes.

According to a media release by the institution, the health department claims that only 19% of people treated in the South African public health system manage to effectively control their glucose levels.

Uncontrolled diabetes can result in several health complications – from kidney failure to loss of sight and amputations to compromised immune systems, making it harder to fight off other illnesses and diseases, the most problematic currently being Covid-19.

READ | Opinion | Covid-19 and diabetes: Why such a lethal combination?

READ | Type 2 diabetes: Sitting can cause problems with blood sugar levels, so get up and move

READ | Our research shows gaps in South Africa's diabetes management programme

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