Dar es Salaam — The government has said tackling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is one among its agenda, for it to attain its dream of becoming a middle income country through an industrialised economy as envisioned in its 2025 development vision.
The remark was made yesterday by the minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, during the first Mwananchi Thought Leadership forum.
"For the country to attain middle income status through an industrialised economy, we need healthy people," noted Ms Mwalimu during the forum that brought together government leaders, policy-makers, experts, CEO's and university students to discuss the challenges of NCDs and suggest way forward.
"Boosting our human resource capacity is at the heart of our economic strategies and it is on that grounds we are committed towards investing massively in tackling NCDs to help build economy through increased productivity and competitiveness of locally produced products."
Her sentiment is supported by the government's number of initiatives, among others, increasing the budget for essential drugs, awareness campaigns and putting the focus on prevention instead of treatment.
"NCDs are a big challenge that we are grappling with. In that regard, we increased the budget for essential drugs from Sh30 billion in 2015/16 financial year to Sh267 billion, of the Sh1.1 trillion 2017/18 health budget," noted Ms Mwalimu.
However, she said the pace combating the problem was slow progress due to financial constraints.
"It is important to note that the problem in question is a crosscutting issue. For our efforts to be proved successful, it is high time stakeholders from various cadres, including donors, spoke with a single voice," she said.
As things stand, according to the World Health Organisation data, things are not well on the ground.
The organisation's country representative to Tanzania, Dr Adiele Onyeze, said NCDs account for over 34 per cent all deaths occurring in the country annually, posing a great challenge to the individual and national economy.
Stakeholders who attended the forum said as alarming as those figures were they had known how to drive them down, explaining that treating the diseases could be affordable, while preventing them could cost next to nothing,
"We should encourage individuals to make smart choices that will protect their health, including exercises, eating well, limit alcohol consumption and stop smoking," a medical specialist, Prof Andrew Swai, opined.
Prof Swai who heads Tanzania Diabetes Association stressed that if the world came together to tackle NCDs "we can do more than heal individuals -- we can safeguard our very future."
"We must act together to avert the problem and bring it into our broader global health and development agenda," he declared.
Dr Onyeze is optimistic that Tanzania has all what it takes to address the problem, banking his hopes on the rising political will around the world, the growing campaign on Universal Health Coverage and the guiding targets set by the Sustainable Development Goals.