Rwanda Seeks to Reduce Deaths From NCDs By a Third

The government has launched a five-year strategy aimed at reducing, by a third, premature mortality caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The strategy, which runs until 2025, was launched by the Ministry of Health and Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) during an event to mark the "World Heart Day" on September 29.

It comes at the time figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that NCDs remain the leading cause of death and disability globally. It accounts for more than 70 per cent of deaths worldwide.

Close to 85 per cent of these deaths, WHO says, occur in low and middle-income countries. And within this, 82 per cent of these deaths are due to four primary NCDs: cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

In Rwanda, NCDs accounted for 44 per cent of total deaths with cardiovascular diseases and injuries sharing the highest mortality rate of 14 per cent each closely followed by cancers 13 per cent, chronic respiratory diseases 3 per cent, diabetes 2 per cent, and other NCDs 13 per cent, according to RBC.

The key risk factors include harmful use of alcohol, an unhealthy diet with too much salt, sugar, and trans-fat/saturated fat, followed by tobacco use and lack of physical activity.

In order to implement the strategy, the country will need Rwf358.15 billion over the next five years.

The money is meant to raise awareness and community engagement for behavioural change, prevention, and control of NCD risk factors, and providing quality services at all levels of health care.

Dr. Daniel Ngamije, the Minister of Health, highlighted the importance of investing in disease prevention.

"Investing now in prevention will lead to savings in the future, money that would otherwise have to be spent on treating Rwandans in advanced stages of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease," the minister said in a press release. "The health sector alone cannot overcome it but it requires a multisectoral action in the prevention and control of NCDs in the country."

Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director-General of RBC, emphasised; "This strategic plan is truly multisectoral, calling upon actors across government, private entities, civil society organisations and the population at large, to all play their role".

According to Dr. Francois Uwinkindi, the NCD Manager at RBC, integrating NCD services into the existing primary health care system will be critical for the successful implementation of the strategy.

Key components of the response to NCDs include early detection, screening, and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care.

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