Gaborone — Nations have been urged to act quickly and tackle Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) head-on with the same vigour exerted on fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Speaking at a high level advocacy meeting on NCDs former president said Dr Festus Mogae noted that the fight against HIV/AIDS focused on prevention while maintaining access to treatment.
He said in the 1990s, Botswana faced an HIV/AIDS crisis but today had one of the most comprehensive HIV treatment programmes in Africa.
"At least 95 per cent of people who need treatment have access to life-saving anti-retrovirals and transmission of the virus from HIV-positive mothers to their babies has been reduced drastically," he said.
Noting that NCDs claimed more than 40 million lives each year globally, Dr Mogae said access to treatment and services differed according to where one lived in the world.
The former president said in Africa, countries experienced rapid rises in the number of NCDs cases warning that if not managed, deaths were projected to increase by almost a third by 2030.
"Unless we embed and expand NCDs within health systems and ensure Universal health coverage, the NCDs crisis is set to escalate dramatically," he said.
Describing NCDs as chronic conditions including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases, Dr Mogae said cervical cancer could be prevented through vaccination of girls aged 9-13 against the human papilloma virus.
Vaccination, he said, could be combined with effective screening and management for women aged 30-49 as well as demographic-specific education and awareness programmes.
Saying NCDs were related to an individual's lifestyle, the former president said diet, level of physical activity and exposure to risk factors such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs and stressors determined disease levels.
He said the diseases and deaths could be averted through changes in individual lifestyle and through policy shifts and investment at micro-level.
Dr Mogae said the situation where unhealthy food stuffs such as sugar, salt and fats were easily accessible and cheap but healthy choices such as fish, fruit and vegetables were too expensive and difficult to find had to change.
For his part, Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Alfred Madigele urged all to introspect on their habits and implications on their health status.
Dr Madigele said prevention, health promotion, diagnosis, treatment, monitoring, surveillance and research had been identified as priority areas for addressing NCDs in Botswana.
Dr Madigele said governance had been added to the list of priority areas.
"This is a particular area needing to be strengthened and critical to accelerating national NCD prevention and control efforts," he said.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>