Developing a Screening Algorithm for Type II Diabetes Mellitus in the Resource-Limited Setting of Rural Tanzania

Am J Med Sci. 2016 Apr;351(4):408-15. doi: 10.1016/j.amjms.2016.01.012. Epub 2016 Feb 10.


Background: Noncommunicable diseases are on pace to outnumber infectious disease as the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa, yet many questions remain unanswered with concern toward effective methods of screening for type II diabetes mellitus (DM) in this resource-limited setting. We aim to design a screening algorithm for type II DM that optimizes sensitivity and specificity of identifying individuals with undiagnosed DM, as well as affordability to health systems and individuals.

Methods: Baseline demographic and clinical data, including hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), were collected from 713 participants using probability sampling of the general population. We used these data, along with model parameters obtained from the literature, to mathematically model 8 purposed DM screening algorithms, while optimizing the sensitivity and specificity using Monte Carlo and Latin Hypercube simulation.

Results: An algorithm that combines risk assessment and measurement of fasting blood glucose was found to be superior for the most resource-limited settings (sensitivity 68%, sensitivity 99% and cost per patient having DM identified as $2.94). Incorporating HbA1c testing improves the sensitivity to 75.62%, but raises the cost per DM case identified to $6.04. The preferred algorithms are heavily biased to diagnose those with more severe cases of DM.

Conclusions: Using basic risk assessment tools and fasting blood sugar testing in lieu of HbA1c testing in resource-limited settings could allow for significantly more feasible DM screening programs with reasonable sensitivity and specificity.

Keywords: Noncommunicable disease; Sub-Saharan Africa; Tanzania; Type II diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / economics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Resources* / economics
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Rural Population*
  • Tanzania / epidemiology