Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are on the rise world-over. Unlike communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases are not passed from one person to the other, but that they are chronic.
Such diseases include: hypertension, cancers, renal failure, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases and mental/psychiatric disorders. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that NCDs kills more than 36 million people each year.
Nearly 80 percent of non-communicable deaths, thus around 29 million, occur in low and middle income countries. Moreover, the United States Department of Health and Human services claims that NCDs are the number one cause of death and disability in the world with Center for Disease Control (CDC) advancing that more that 75 percent of all deaths worldwide are NCDs.
Understandably, there are a lot of acute health issues in our population and that efforts are already in place to solve such issues. However, if the above facts and statistics are anything to go by, then we ought to double-check where we have placed the NCDs in the solution equation.
Usually, there are aspects of personal behaviour or lifestyle, an environmental exposure, or a hereditary characteristic that is associated with an increase in the occurrence of a particular disease, injury, or other health condition.
Risk factors for NCDs include physical inactivity, tobacco use, harmful alcohol use, unhealthily diets such low fruit and vegetable consumption and unregulated salt intake, obesity and overweight, psychological stress and many more.
However, it is worth noting that the rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in the low income countries by forcing up household costs associated with health care.
Furthermore, in low-resource settings, health-care costs for cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes or chronic lung diseases can quickly drain household resources, driving families into poverty.
The exorbitant costs of NCDs, including often lengthy and expensive treatment and loss of breadwinners, are forcing millions of people into poverty annually thereby stifling development.
To lessen the impact of NCDs on the individuals and society there is need for consolidated effort by all stakeholders and sectors so that we lessen risk factors and in turn reduce the prevalence of these diseases.
Among other things, this calls for personal responsibility. Some risk factors like diet and lifestyle require every person being upbeat in as far as choosing what meals to take and in what proportions as well as engaging in physical exercise.
Also, organisations and institutions need to embark on research as a way of combating the diseases. Usually, when it comes to research we often refer the research findings from other nations with different health settings.
Intensified research done in Malawi can provide us with the actual picture of the burden of the disease in our health setting and in the end easily find solutions that fit in our health system.
Furthermore, there is need to strengthen the primary healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment. Evidently, this approach has excellent economic benefits because if applied early to patients, can reduce the need for more expensive treatment. The greatest impact can be achieved by creating healthy public policies that promote NCD prevention and control and repositioning health systems to address the needs of people with such diseases.
All in all, NCDs, though on the rise; its impact and prevalence can be reduced with consolidated effort by all stakeholders.
The author is a health advocate based in Zomba