Treating 4,000 diabetic patients in Cambodia, a high-prevalence but resource-limited setting: a 5-year study

BMC Med. 2009 Jul 14:7:33. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-7-33.


Background: Despite the worldwide increasing burden of diabetes, there has been no corresponding scale-up of treatment in developing countries and limited evidence of program effectiveness. In 2002, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Cambodia, Médecins Sans Frontières initiated an outpatient program of subsidized diabetic care in two hospital-based chronic disease clinics in rural settings. We aimed to describe the outcomes of newly and previously diagnosed diabetic patients enrolled from 2002 to 2008.

Methods: We calculated the mean and proportion of patients who met the recommended treatment targets, and the drop from baseline values for random blood glucose (RBG), hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), blood pressure (BP), and body mass index (BMI) at regular intervals. Analysis was restricted to patients not lost to follow-up. We used the t test to compare baseline and subsequent paired values.

Results: Of 4404 patients enrolled, 2,872 (65%) were still in care at the time of the study, 24 (0.5%) had died, and 1,508 (34%) were lost to follow-up. Median age was 53 years, 2,905 (66%) were female and 4,350 (99%) had type 2 diabetes. Median (interquartile range (IQR)) follow-up was 20 months (5 to 39.5 months). A total of 24% (51/210) of patients had a HbA1c concentration of <7% and 35% (709/1,995) had a RBG <145 mg/dl within 1 year. There was a significant drop of 109 mg/dl (95% confidence interval (CI) 103.1 to 114.3) in mean RBG (P < 0.001) and a drop of 2.7% (95% CI 2.3 to 3.0) in mean HbA1c (P < 0.001) between baseline and month 6. In all, 45% (327/723) and 62% (373/605) of patients with systolic or diastolic hypertension at baseline, respectively, reached = 130/80 mm Hg within 1 year. There was a drop of 13.5 mm Hg (95% CI 12.1 to 14.9) in mean systolic blood pressure (SBP) (P < 0.001), and a drop of 11.7 mm Hg (95% CI 10.8 to 12.6) in mean diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (P < 0.001) between baseline and month 6. Only 22% (90/401) patients with obesity at baseline lowered their BMI <27.5 kg/m2 after 1 year. Factors associated with loss to follow-up were male sex, age >60 years, living outside the province, normal BMI on admission, high RBG on last visit, and coming late for the last consultation.

Conclusion: Significant and clinically important improvements in glycemia and BP were observed, but a relatively low proportion of diabetic patients reached treatment targets. These results and the high loss to follow-up rate highlight the challenges of delivering diabetic care in rural, resource-limited settings.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cambodia
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Developing Countries
  • Diabetes Mellitus / therapy*
  • Female
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / analysis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human