For many decades now, Nigeria has been racing against time in curtailing rising cases of premature deaths arising from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
Diseases such as cardiovascular (hypertension, coronary heart, and stroke); cancer, diabetes mellitus, sickle cell, chronic respiratory diseases (COPD, asthma); mental, neurological and substance use disorders, among others, have been on the rise in the country for decades now.
Efforts that have been made so far appear like water off the duck’s back as the country still faces worst forms of NCDs.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020 and the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals have set a target of 25 per cent reduction in the overall premature mortality from NCDs by 2025 as well as 33 per cent crash in overall premature mortality from NCDs. Its target is also to promote mental health and well-being by 2030.
The National Strategic Plan of Action by the Federal Ministry of Health on Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases documented since 2015 states that inadequate funding of NCD-related programmes and activities, poor legislation and enforcement of laws, linked to the prevention and control and a weak health system, have been major barriers to tackling NCDs.
But experts say adopting an integrated and multi-sectoral approach involving whole-of-government and whole-of society is one of the ways to remove this barrier.
With Nigerians population of about 198 million people, there are currently high probabilities of dying between the ages of 30- 70 years from these four main NCDs: cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases. This is estimated at about 20 per cent, according to the WHO.
“Achieving the global target of 25 percent lowering of premature death by 2025 is going to be very difficult because there are so many things that need to go into it. We are near it, but we may not get the 25 percent,” said Sonny Kuku, president, Nigeria NCD Alliance.
Kuku noted that to kick start the process of bringing these epidemics under some control, the country needs properly planned concerted effort to prevent disease by creating more awareness and making management of NCDs free.
Proffering solution on further ways to check the alarming increases; he said: “One of the ways is to integrate NCDs into public health centres (PHCs), funding them and providing personnel that will tell the people about NCD. We can use the same process used in driving the prevalence of HIV and Aids down for NCDs.”
“We also want to put pressure on the ministry to create special fund for the national health insurance scheme to fund NCDs and community-based insurances, which will be funded by budgeting especially local government funds,” said Kuku.
Kingsley Akinroye, president, Nigerian Heart Foundation, said the country needs to inquire into the strengths and weakness of the current polices and its implementations.
“We know the prevalence of hypertension in Nigeria is more than 30 percent in the adult population. The reason for setting the target is for us to measure and work towards achieving it.
“As of now we do not have a target, although we have a national NCD plan. Nigeria needs to come out and set a target for NCD so that all relevant ministries and agencies will key into towards achieving those targets,” he added.
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