By Samwel Doe Ouma @samweldoe
Ministry of Health, AstraZeneca and the United Nations Partnerships for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have called for integration of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Kenya.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee said government and private sector must accelerate efforts to combat NCDs.
He echoed remarks made by President Uhuru Kenyatta during the UN General Assembly, calling for urgency and strong collaboration in the fight against NCDs.
“The joint work done by the private sector, with companies such as AstraZeneca, and public authorities is giving us practical lessons that can be replicated and scaled up to strengthen momentum towards achieving SDG3 on health lives and wellbeing for all,” he said.
NCDs also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behaviours factors.
The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma and diabetes.
The four groups of non-communicable diseases account for over 80 percent of all premature NCD deaths. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD.
Early detection, screening, and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.
The Ministry of Health entered into a partnership with AstraZeneca to launch the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) programme in 2014.
Since then HHA has conducted over 8.5 million blood pressure screenings, trained over 5,800 healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, community health volunteers and pharmacists to provide education and awareness.
HHA has also conducted screening and treatment services for hypertension, activated 680 healthcare facilities to provide hypertension services and identified over 1.5 million people living with high blood pressure.
The government has prioritized policies such as NCD Strategy (2015–2020) and the Kenya Health Policy to address the rising burden of NCDs.
The Strategy highlights the importance of strengthening the capacity of health systems at primary and secondary levels.
According to Katarina Ageborg, Executive Vice-President, Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer, AstraZeneca and President, AstraZeneca AB, over 14,000 people are reported to die in Kenya every year due to health conditions traceable to indoor pollution.
“Considering that chronic respiratory disease is a main therapy area for AstraZeneca, we aim to create an environment where local people not only live in a clean environment but where they are not vulnerable to respiratory diseases.”
WHO urged countries to implement cost-effective measures such as increasing taxation and plain packaging on tobacco products and reduce sodium content in food.
In addition, the global health body calls on countries to provide drug therapy and counselling to people living with diabetes and hypertension, screening and vaccinating girls and women to protect them from cervical cancer.
According to Ashling Mulvaney, AstraZeneca’s Global Head of Sustainability Strategy and HHA, NCDs are fast becoming Kenya’s biggest public health concern, accounting for over 50 percent of hospital inpatient admissions and 40 percent of hospital deaths.
“AstraZeneca focuses on disease prevention, developing health systems and ensuring that products we provide are affordable,” Ashling Said.
According to a WHO report, Non- communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 percent of all deaths globally.
The report further says that each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 85 percent of these ‘premature’ deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers 9.0 million, respiratory diseases 3.9million, and diabetes kills 1.6 million.
Poverty is closely linked with NCDs. The rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries, particularly by increasing household costs associated with health care.
Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people get sicker and die sooner than people of higher social positions, especially because they are at greater risk of being exposed to harmful products, such as tobacco, or unhealthy dietary practices, and have limited access to health services, WHO reports.
In low-resource settings, health-care costs for NCDs quickly drain household resources. The exorbitant costs of NCDs, including often lengthy and expensive treatment and loss of breadwinners, forces millions of people into poverty annually and stifle development.