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Do you know and love someone with diabetes? Or are you the loved one with diabetes? Chances are that one of these options is true because Diabetes is one of the most prevalent – and dangerous – conditions worldwide. Research by the International Diabetes Federation shows that in South Africa alone, it affects more than five percent of people between the ages of 21 and 79. That’s about 1.8 million adults – significantly higher than the entire 1.25 million population of Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s fifth largest city.

The numbers by themselves don’t reveal the impact and devastation of diabetes: the parents who must help their children manage a disease they don’t understand, and the spouses, siblings and countless others who have to watch their loved ones suffer.

It’s so much more than the body being unable to handle the amount of sugar in its blood. The person living with Diabetes or anyone who lives with or loves them will be able to testify that it affects multiple aspects of day-to-day life and requires major lifestyle changes and sacrifices.

But it doesn’t have to be the end. Anyone living with Diabetes can lead a healthy life if they manage and treat their condition properly. And the good news is that it’s becoming easier with the introduction of clever technology that helps take some of the stress out of managing something so complex.

Glucose monitors, insulin pumps and pens are just some of the solutions that have in the last few years helped people living with Diabetes and their families keep the condition and its associated risks under control. Newer, smarter and easier-to-use devices are also being developed and released more rapidly than ever before.

“One of the latest types of technology is a convenient sensor-based glucose monitoring system that effectively replaces blood glucose testing in the self-management of diabetes – taking the dreaded finger prick out of the glucose test,” says Bernard Brisolier, Business Unit Director, Diabetes Care, Abbott.

Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre sensor – about the size of a R5 coin – can be applied to the back of the upper arm and scanned even through clothes using either a FreeStyle Libre reader or a compatible smartphone. The FreeStyle LibreLink app is compatible with NFC-enabled phones running Android OS 5.0 or higher and with iPhone 7 and higher running OS 11 and higher.

Results are available immediately and reveal a glucose trend arrow to show you accurately how much and how quickly glucose is rising or falling, as well as an eight-hour history; it also measures ketones. The sensor lasts for up to 14 days, automatically measures glucose day and night and is water resistant, so it can be worn when showering, swimming or exercising. 

It even allows family members to monitor their loved ones’ glucose levels – so if you are the mom or father of a child living with Diabetes, you can scan the sensor on your child to check the glucose reading easily even while they are asleep.

“The beauty of this technology is the life-changing role it plays in helping people living with Diabetes and their families manage what can be an extremely challenging disease to monitor and treat – we are seeing more and more how up-and-coming, user friendly technologies are truly putting the power to manage diseases meaningfully in the hands of the people who need it most,” says Associate Professor Joel Dave, Head of the Division of Endocrinology at the University of Cape Town.

The opening of a FreeStyle Libre Experience Centre – the first in Africa – in M-KEM Medicine City in Bellville in Cape Town will also help give people living with Diabetes access to helpful resources. It is a walk-in clinic where people living with Diabetes can visit for consultation and medical screening, with dedicated and trained nurses.

“Our partnership with Abbott Laboratories SA that has allowed us to open the Experience Centre in our M-KEM Medicine City is a valuable opportunity to change how we manage Diabetes in South Africa, helping drive access to pioneering technology by providing medical screening, a demonstration of how to use the FreeStyle Libre system and assistance with the forms for medical aid,” says Hylton Mallach, founder and owner of M-KEM Medicine City.

“With our partners, we are working to make it easier and more convenient for people with diabetes to access reliable, accurate, and user-friendly solutions that will make a meaningful difference in managing and treating a life-threatening condition,” concludes Brisolier.