Urbanization of rural Africa associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

July 29, 2014

The increasing urbanisation of rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to an explosion in incidences of heart disease and diabetes, according to a new study carried out in Uganda which found that even small changes towards more urban lifestyles was associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

Over 530 million people live in of sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases tend to be much lower than in urban areas. However, many of these areas are becoming increasingly urbanised, with people living within larger populations in more built-up environments, with better access to education, health facilities and utilities, for example.

In an attempt to better understand the impact that urbanisation is having on communities, a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Medical Research Council/Uganda Virus Research Institute Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, and Deakin University in Australia analysed data from 7,340 people aged 13 years and above across 25 villages in Uganda. Each individual was allocated an 'urbanicity score' and this was compared to their lifestyle risk factors, such as alcohol consumption, fruit and , (BMI) and physical activity. The results are published today in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Dr Manjinder Sandhu from the Department of Public Health and Primary Care at the University of Cambridge, joint senior author of the study, says: "Over half a billion people live in rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa. We need to understand how the health of these populations will change as the areas develop and become more urbanised to enable countries to plan future healthcare programmes and develop interventions to reduce this risk."

The researchers found that levels of urbanicity varied markedly across the villages, ranging from those without educational facilities or electricity in households, to villages with a public telephone and a dispensary. However, despite the features of urbanisation being relatively modest, living in more urban villages was associated with increased prevalence of factors such as physical inactivity, low fruit and vegetable consumption, heavy drinking and high body mass index, even after controlling for other factors such as socioeconomic status.

Johanna Riha, first author and a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge, says: "Development in rural areas will provide people with much needed access to education, healthcare and improved sanitation, with very positive health benefits. But it could be a double-edged sword and come at a cost of a greater incidence of diseases such as and diabetes."

Professor Janet Seeley, joint senior author from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, adds: "Even a small increase in a person's level of urbanicity appears to be associated with poorer lifestyle choices that raise their risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. As better infrastructure, education and healthcare systems are being developed, we should look for ways to use them to provide an opportunity to design and deliver interventions to help reduce the risk of these diseases."

Explore further: The influence of westernization spells danger for public health in Nigeria

More information: PLOS Medicine; 29 July 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001683

Related Stories

The influence of westernization spells danger for public health in Nigeria

June 30, 2014
The study, published in PLOS ONE, by a team from the University of Warwick Medical School found that over one in five women in Nigeria were reported to be overweight or obese, with this statistic increasing among demographics ...

Older Chinese adults with dementia and depression have a significantly higher risk of mortality

March 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Older adults with dementia and depression living in rural China have a significantly higher risk of mortality than their urban counterparts, according to a new report by UK and Chinese scientists.

One in three cases of Alzheimer's worldwide potentially preventable, new estimate suggests

July 14, 2014
A third of Alzheimer's disease cases worldwide can be attributed to risk facts that can be potentially modified, such as lack of education and physical inactivity, according to NIHR-funded research published in The Lancet ...

Risk factors for cardiovascular problems found to be inverse to disease and deaths

September 2, 2013
Despite living with the highest risk factors for heart disease, people in high income countries suffer less from serious cardiovascular disease, says an international study by the global PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology ...

Access to improved water and sanitation varies widely within sub-Saharan Africa

April 8, 2014
Access to improved drinking water and sanitation is highly variable within individual countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a study published in this week's PLOS Medicine. Dr Rachel Pullan and colleagues, from ...

Women in large urban areas at higher risk of postpartum depression

August 6, 2013
Women living in large urban centres in Canada with more than 500 000 inhabitants were at higher risk of postpartum depression than women in other areas, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

High-dose vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles for children

July 18, 2017
Giving children high doses of vitamin D doesn't appear to reduce the winter sniffles, a new study has found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.