Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) use and glycaemic control in patients living with diabetes mellitus attending public healthcare facilities in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

S Pillay, D Pillay, R Pillay


Background. Ideal control of diabetes mellitus (DM) remains a global goal, which has not yet been reached. As part of an integrated public healthcare strategy, data with subsequent analysis of diabetes control achieved in patients living with DM (PLWD) need to be available. Diabetes control data from KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, South Africa, are scarce. Smaller studies conducted in public and private healthcare sectors of KZN have shown suboptimal DM control.

Objectives. To identify the percentage of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) tests done in KZN public healthcare facilities, and to provide a glimpse into diabetes control being achieved in each KZN district municipality.

Methods. Data regarding the number of HbA1c tests performed, number of patients with an HbA1c ≤7% and number of diabetes visits were accessed from the KZN Department of Health Information Systems and analysed.

Results. The majority of HbA1c tests were performed in the metro municipality of eThekwini (p<0.001). Approximately two-thirds (64.5%) of PLWD in whom HbA1c tests had been performed, were suboptimally controlled. In 5 of the 11 KZN district municipalities more than two-thirds of PLWD had an HbA1c >7%. Most of the patients in 9 of the 11 district municipalities showed suboptimal control of their DM. The total number of HbA1c tests performed in KZN represents approximately one-tenth of the total number of diabetes treatment visits. This trend was prevalent in all 11 district municipalities, where the incidence of DM was on an upward trajectory.

Conclusions. Our study demonstrated that the majority of PLWD visiting public healthcare facilities in KZN have suboptimal glycaemic control. They are at increased risk of developing diabetes-related complications, further burdening the healthcare fiscus of low- to middle-income countries. We also showed that the number of HbA1c tests being performed, in the presence of suboptimal control, was well below par. This finding serves to emphasise the need for strategies to be implemented to increase awareness of HbA1c testing for the monitoring of glycaemic control, and for making point-of-care HbA1c testing readily available in these healthcare facilities.

Authors' affiliations

S Pillay, King Edward VIII Hospital, and Department of Internal Medicine, Nelson R Mandela School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

D Pillay, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

R Pillay, Clifton College, Durban, South Africa

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Diabetes mellitus; Glycated haemoglobin; HbA1c; KwaZulu-Natal; South Africa; Public healthcare facilities; Suboptimal glycaemic control; Suboptimal number of HbA1c tests performed

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2021;111(11):1060-1064. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2021.v111i11.15925

Article History

Date submitted: 2021-11-05
Date published: 2021-11-05

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