In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rapid increase in the prevalence of diabetes has resulted in significant public health and socioeconomic liability in the face of scarce resources. Faced with a growing pandemic of non-communicable diseases, developing countries need to be proactive in investigating alternative cost-effective interventions, with the primary aim being to minimize illness and maximize health benefits relative to the limited available resources.
The aim of this research study was to quantify the economic impact of an exercise intervention as a preventative strategy for type 2 diabetes in a developing country. The research also sought to investigate if there was an economic case for physical activity as a primary and secondary preventative measure in the management of non-communicable diseases.
The study was quantitative in nature and used both primary and secondary data to conduct the cost analysis. A questionnaire was administered to 40 patients at a diabetic clinic in a peri-urban community health care centre. Secondary data, consisting of clinic records and an extensive literature review, was used to source the remaining inputs needed for the cost analysis.
Results revealed that the implementation costs of a physical activity intervention exceeded the costs of a pharmaceutical programme. Physical activity resulted in decreased productivity loss, with significant economic implications at a household level. Evidence reviewed in the literature suggested that physical activity could be used in primary prevention as a viable substitute to pharmaceutical therapy. For secondary disease prevention, however, physical activity was complementary in the production of health benefits, limiting disease progression and morbidity caused by illness.