Dealing with Zambia’s growing burden of NCDs
By Lillian Banda -
The increase in the number of fatalities resulting from Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) is something that can no longer be ignored. More so because these ailments, as experts point out, are highly preventable.
Cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and strokes), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are the most common NDCs in the world today. These NCDs account for about 80 per cent of all NCD deaths.
As the term suggests, NCDs are non-infectious. They are sometimes referred to as lifestyle diseases.
Earlier this year, World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Olusegun Babaniyi said Zambia was facing a growing burden of NCDs such as diabetes and cancer which he said were responsible for about 27 per cent of deaths in the country with 46.7 per cent occurring in people aged below 60 years.
In order to better coordinate efforts aimed at addressing NCDs in the country, those working to counter the challenge are calling for the establishment of a consolidated structure that will help to address the issue in a more comprehensive way.
“As establishments addressing issues pertaining to NCDs in the country, we need to harness our efforts in order to effectively deal with the situation.
There is need for increased collaboration between those working on disease control and the ones concerned with treatment aspects. A coalition or an alliance would help the country to come up with a comprehensive national strategy on NDCs among other things.
It is therefore important for us to have a coalition, as it is the case with other countries. Currently, there is only so much we can do because working in isolation,” says Dr Fastone Goma, Zambia Tobacco Control Campaign team leader.
Dr Goma also observes that countries that have alliances concerned with tackling NCDs are making headways in addressing the challenge. “Our colleagues have an NDC Alliance, which is proving to be very helpful,” he adds.
And Zambian Cancer Society (ZCS) asserts that the formation of an NCD alliance would be of great help to the country as it is currently resource constrained.
“Through such an alliance we can pool our expertise and resources and have a greater impact in creating a healthier Zambia,” say Udie Soko, ZCS Executive director.
The United Nations (UN) considers NCDs as a development challenge of epidemic proportions.
A 2013 World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that NCDs are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing over 60 per cent of all deaths.
The report also indicates that over 36 million people die each year from NCDs. Nearly 80 per cent of all NCD deaths occur in low and middle income countries.
They (NCDs), are the leading causes of deaths in all regions except Africa, but current projections indicate that by 2020 the largest increase in NCD deaths will occur in Africa.
Most of these deaths are linked to risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity. Other factors associated with NCDs are Social determinants of health.
It is estimated that by 2020, seven (7) out of every 10 deaths in developing countries will be as a result of NCDs, killing 52 million people annually worldwide by 2030, if present growth trends are maintained.