•NCDs are on the rise while other diseases are declining
•Tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity the main risk factors
Combating the burden of non-communicable diseases requires concerted effort, an expert has said.
Also known as chronic diseases, NCDs tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.
The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.
Gerald Yonga, a cardiologist, lists tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity as the main risk factors for NCDs in the country.
“Another risk factor is unhealthy diets due to the aggressive marketing and promotion especially to the younger generation,” the medic noted.
Yonga who is the chairperson Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance East Africa said being diagnosed with an NCD often means years of poor health.
“Currently, we are experiencing a situation where NCDs are on the rise while other diseases are declining. As a country, if we do nothing to curb the current situation, NCDs will be the largest killer diseases by the year 2025.”
The World Health Organization estimates that each year, 15 million people between 30-69 years die from NCDs globally, with over 85 per cent of the premature deaths occurring in low and middle income countries.
Cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes account for more than 80 per cent of the deaths.
Majority of the cases are related to poverty, lack of early detection and treatment.
Kenya is experiencing an upsurge in the prevalence of NCDs with estimates indicating that they currently account for a third of the disease burden, according to the health expert.
“Government, healthcare professionals and partners need to enhance health promotion programs towards reducing smoking and alcohol use, increase consumption of healthy diets, increase of physical activity and the overall reduction of environmental pollution,” Yonga said.
He recommended that the health care system in Kenya needs to develop mechanisms to promote behavioral change and preventive care for NCDs through control of the risk factors, since behavioral change and preventive health is more cost effective than curative health.
Yonga said government expenditure on health has remained below 10 per cent, falling behind the recommended 15 per cent as per the 2001 Abuja Declaration.