Original Research

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus among patients attending a rural Kenyan hospital

Masemiano P. Chege
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 2, No 1 | a96 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v2i1.96 | © 2010 Masemiano P. Chege | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 June 2009 | Published: 24 May 2010

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Masemiano P. Chege, Department of Family Medicine, Moi University, Kenya

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Background: The Diabetes Management and Information Center in Nairobi has conducted population surveys among rural and urban Kenyans during the last decade. They have reported a rise in the prevalence of diabetes among rural Kenyans from 3% in 2003 to 7% in 2007. Our study was undertaken to investigate rural factors for type 2 diabetes and determine those that could be responsible for this rise in prevalence.

Objectives: To describe the risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus among patients attending the outpatient clinics in a rural mission hospital in Kenya.

Method: Forty-five diabetics and forty-five non-diabetics, resident in this rural hospital’s catchment area for at least 10 years, were randomly selected from patients attending outpatient clinics. Diabetics in a stable condition (not requiring hospitalisation), whose fasting blood sugars were below 6.1 mmol/L, were matched for age and gender with the non-diabetics who came to the hospital for outpatient services. A pilot-tested questionnaire on demography, current and past dietary habits, social habits, and family history was used to collect data. Waist circumference, height and weight were measured and BMI calculated. Data was analysed using SPSS for Windows. The Kruskal–Wallis test was used to compare the medians for the continuous variables, while the chi-squared test was used for the categorical variables. The z-test was used to calculate the relative risk.

Results: Ninety participants (26 males, 64 females). The mean age was 61.8 for diabetics and 61.4 for non-diabetics. Childhood starvation (relative risk 2.08, p = 0.0090) and use of cassava for sustenance during childhood starvation (relative risk 3.12, p = 0.0090) were identified as risk factors. Diabetes in close relatives, another risk factor for this population (relative risk 2.2, p = 0.0131). Abdominal obesity was a risk factor for this population (in females relative risk 2.0, p = 0.0010).

Conclusion: The risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus described in this rural population include advancing age, diabetes in a first-degree relative and abdominal obesity. This is similar to what has been cited in other studies. At variance, we found that more than 50% of the diabetics reported having suffered malnutrition/starvation in childhood, with more than half of them reporting their dependence on cassava as the only food source during starvation.


adult type 2 diabetes mellitus; risk factors; rural population; relative risk; Kenya


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