13 July 2017

East Africa: 'Silent Killers' - No Longer a Worry to Developed Nations Only


As the saying goes 'A Stitch In Time Saves Nine', prevention is by far the easiest and effective way that could pay country off when it comes to eradicating diseases particularly the incurable ones. The ugly face of non communicable diseases has already been looming on doorsteps of the developing countries.

The diseases have long been perceived as affecting the developed nations only but their impacts are now going beyond boundaries. With the growing risky factors ranging from an increased smoking habit and unhealthy diet, the silent killers are now posing threats to the least developed countries as well.

Already beset by other communicable diseases with fear of resurrection of HIV and AIDS, countries in the Horn of Africa face unprecedented challenges of noncommunicable diseases with the share of the mortality rate equating the contagious ones. But what is a worrisome is the countries seem to be negligent. " Countries seem to be least prepared to contain the disease compared to the magnitude of the problem. We need to encourage health diet, tightening prohibition of alcohol and tobacco. NCDs are best at prevention not at treatment. For developing countries like Ethiopia, prevention should always be the priority. And as individual it all depends on whether you want a healthy diet and active life, otherwise the consequences would be severe, said Mathiwos Wondu YeEthiopia Cancer Society General Manager Wondu Bekele.

Countries should now prepare for a strong battle against the diseases once considered as 'a disease of the wealthy', as its burden is reported to have intensified over the past years. Ethiopia is no exception. With a share of the registered mortality rate reaching almost 40 percent, non communicable diseases are the next challenge for the country. The shocking death of Ethiopian football star Aseged Tesfay who died aged 41 would suffice to mention. His death was caused by heart attack, one of the non communicable diseases claiming the lives of millions.

For Ethiopia that successfully expanded primary health care facilities and came up with effective health extension workers, the best way is to integrate the non-communicable diseases with the existing health care system. "We have the best primary health system in Ethiopia. What we need is to integrate NCDs to the existing system. There is no need for reinventing the wheel. When you have very strong legislation and guideline that help you address the risk factors, you are more likely to avoid the threats earlier than later." Wondu added.

Ethiopia Public Health Institute (EPHI) Disease Burden Adviser Dr. Misgana Aweke said: "The country is working on developing guidelines and implementing national strategy. Yet, integrating non-communicable diseases with other communicable diseases is a key step forward to cope with the impacts of the disorder. There is not a one-fit solution. There should be multi-sectoral responses as there are shared risky factors that cause both the contagious and non contagious diseases.

Non communicable diseases patients are often boiling frogs, as they don't immediately see they are affected until it has consumed their lives. NCDs are the best at prevention even in the developed world as they are incurable and need lifetime treatments.

Fighting non-communicable disease lies mostly on eradicating the risk factors. Reducing the number of smokers, alcohol consumption, ensuring healthy diet are what nations should do at first. For example, in the 1950s more than 75 percent of US population were smokers, but these days that proportion has plummeted to 25 percent. As a result the impact of the diseases have declined through time.

Non Communicable Disease Consultant at WHO Dr. Fasil Shiferaw said that once the strategy is formulated and identification of risky behavioral factors are done, what is left is proper implementation. Cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases are also related with risk factors of tobacco and excessive use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Legislation to create smoking free cities should immediately come to effect. Integrated management is needed at health facilities.

Besides, the prevention efforts and early detection of the disease is what should come second. Promoting early detection of the disease and increasing the accessibility of testing at the nearby facilities is also crucial to mobilize resource and promote treatment services.

Amid the increasing burden of the diseases is shortage of resource. There is an estimation gap of fund in the world. There must also be strong public private partnership in providing health care services for all.


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