Uganda: Health Workers Lack Skills to Handle Cancer, Diabetes - Survey

(file photo).

Kampala — Many workers in health centre IIIs and IVs cannot diagnose or treat non-communicable diseases, a survey has indicated.

Conducted in 10 districts by the Uganda Non-communicable Disease Alliance (UNCDA), a non-governmental organisation, the survey found that other than lacking the necessary skills, the health workers were also not exposed due to lack of basic screening equipment.

Mr Christopher Kwizera, the chief executive officer of UNCDA, stated that 67 per cent of the health workers lacked the capacity to treat NCDs and more than 50 per cent do not know how to treat NCDs, according to the study conducted between September and December.

"Health centres don't have even basic equipment to screen people with NCDs such as blood pressure machines, weighing scales, stethoscopes and glucometers [that measure sugar levels]," Dr Kwizera said in Kampala on Tuesday during a breakfast meeting to disseminate the survey findings.

The meeting was attended by Members of Parliament and Health ministry officials. The common types of NCDs are diabetes, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and sickle cell anaemia.

"Government must ensure that health centres are well resourced. They are not just lacking skills but also lacking manpower. We want to have enough health workers to give them skills to be able to detect and refer people with NCDs and also continue with sensitisation," he added.

Other experts during the meeting asked government to impose high taxes on sugary drinks, alcohol and tobacco, which are the leading causes of the top three NCDs of cancer, hypertension, and diabetes.

Dr David Okello, the director of NCDs and healthy ageing at African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST), said though government cannot treat all NCDs, there are measures to prevent them.

"The best thing we can do is stop aggressive marketing for sugary drinks and foods such as beer, soda and other alcohol," Dr Okello advised.

Dr Gerald Mutungi, the commissioner for NCD prevention and control at the Ministry of Health, acknowledged the staffing problem, saying government is putting emphasis on prevention.

"NCDs are now seriously with us but we can avoid them. So these sugary drinks, processed foods are not healthy and we should stop them," Dr Mutungi said.

NCDs are are increasingly becoming common in Uganda due to unhealthy lifestyles.

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