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BMC Public Health. 2014 Jan 28;14:86. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-86.

Prevalence of diabetes in Northern African countries: the case of Tunisia.

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Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Prevention Research Laboratory, Faculty of Medicine, 15 rue Djebel Akdhar-La Rabta-1007 Bab Saâdoun, Tunis, Tunisia.



Although diabetes is recognized as an emerging disease in African and Middle East, few population-based surveys have been conducted in this region. We performed a national survey to estimate the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and to evaluate the relationship between this diagnosis, demographic and socioeconomic variables.


The study was conducted on a random sample of 6580 households (940 in each region). 7700 subjects adults 35-70 years old were included in the analyses. T2D was assessed on the basis of a questionnaire and fasting blood glucose level according to the WHO criteria. Access to health care and diabetes management were also assessed.


Overall, the prevalence of T2D was 15.1%. There were sharp urban vs. rural contrasts, the prevalence of diabetes being twice higher in urban area. However, the ratio urban/rural varied from 3 in the less developed region to 1.6 in the most developed ones. A sharp increase of prevalence of T2D with economic level of the household was observed. For both genders those with a family history of T2D were much more at risk of T2D than those without. Awareness increase with age, economic level and were higher amongst those with family history of T2D. Drugs were supplied by primary health care centers for 57.7% with a difference according to gender, 48.9% for men vs. 66.0% women (p < 0.001) and area, 53.3% on urban area vs. 75.2% on rural one (p < 0.001).


Through its capacity to provide the data on the burden of diabetes in the context of the epidemiological transition that North Africa is facing, this survey will not only be valuable source for health care planners in Tunisia, but will also serve as an important research for the study of diabetes in the region where data is scarce. In this context, NCDs emerge as an intersectoral challenge and their social determinants requiring social, food and environmental health policy.

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