Tanzania Faces Rise of Non-Communicable Diseases

Mike of the Uganda NCD Alliance leads a parade around the community in Kampala to raise awareness of NCDs.

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania is facing an increase of deaths related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), after the new report revealing the doubling number over the last three decades.

The new report entitled "The right to health and access to universal health coverage for older people" published by HelpAge International and Global AgeWatch has revealed that deaths related to NCDs have doubled between 1990 and 2015

However, the report has revealed that in 2016, NCDs in Tanzania were estimated to account for 33 per cent of all deaths, and the proportion of disease due to NCDs had doubled from 19 per cent of the total disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in 1990 to 34 per cent in 2015.

Predictably, the literature shows that the impact of NCDs in Tanzania is disproportionately high among people aged 50 and older.

"In the same way that the benefits of overall economic growth in Tanzania have not been spread evenly across sociodemographic and age groups, health status and access to healthcare have also been unevenly distributed," says a report of which The Citizen has a copy.

According to the findings, older people were found to experience formidable barriers related to availability, accessibility and acceptability of good-quality healthcare services.

This is despite the government's long history of political commitment to healthcare for its citizens, which stretches back to Tanzania's independence in the 1960s, and policies and recent reforms, all of which are notable.

It was noted that the health system in Tanzania needs to adapt to these epidemiological changes and address inequalities in access to ensure older people's right to health is realised.

Access to universal health coverage (UHC), a global priority under the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is a key part of the realignment of health systems required to ensure older people's right to health.

Findings show that older people living with certain NCD conditions do not have full access to the services they need.

For example, nearly two-thirds of people aged 50-64 have never been screened for high blood pressure, with older men less likely to have been tested than older women.

The majority (87 per cent) of people aged 50-64 have never had their blood glucose tested.

Qualitative evidence collected in Dar es Salaam sheds light on some of the barriers that older people face in access to services, such as lack of adequate income, poor health provision at lower-level facilities and lack of respect from health staff.

The same is true in the rest of the country, and particularly in rural areas, where the majority of older people live and where accessibility is hampered by economic factors and poor infrastructure. The findings also highlight inequalities within the older population in relation to access to health services and health coverage.

Older people in rural areas and those with no education are more likely to be excluded. Screening for both high blood pressure and diabetes is much less likely among older people in rural areas, older people without college degrees and among those in low-income households.

The findings shows that the majority (92.8 per cent) of older people in rural areas have never been tested for diabetes, whereas around two thirds (68.8 per cent) of older urban residents have never been tested.

In relation to health insurance, older people with a university degree are 11 times more likely to have health coverage than those with no education (59 per cent and 5.4 per cent, respectively).

Gender inequalities reveal that while older men are more likely to have health insurance than women (12.7 and 10.6 per cent, respectively), women are more likely to access services.

For example, just under a half (43.7 per cent) of older women were previously measured for hypertension, compared with around a quarter (25.8 per cent) of men.

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