• Kenya reports a high and rising prevalence of NCD risk factors such as excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index
• With the late presentation, late diagnosis and delayed identification of complications we tend to experience more malignant and severe diseases
The Ministry of Health has flagged the rising cases of diabetes and hypertension among Kenyans even as it decried late diagnosis.
The ministry said the diabetes prevalence has been on the rise from two per cent in 2015 to 3.3 per cent currently.
Experts are estimating a further increase to 4.5 per cent by the year 2025.
The prevalence of hypertension also remains high as one in four persons is known to be hypertensive in Kenya.
Only eight per cent are on treatment and four per cent of them have achieved control.
Health CAS Dr Rashid Aman says Kenya reports a high and rising prevalence of NCD risk factors such as excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, high blood pressure, high body mass index, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity.
“With the late presentation, late diagnosis and delayed identification of complications seen in the patients diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, we tend to experience a more malignant and severe course of these diseases as compared to other developed countries,” Aman said.
“This leads to a higher economic burden to the patients, families and government, overstretching needs and increasing the overall burden in the health system, posing an impediment to the reduction in morbidity, mortality, and economic burden of NCDs in Kenya.”
This comes even as the ministry received equipment from AstraZeneca that will enable research on the use of non-invasive technology to predict the risk of hypertension, diabetes, eye conditions and other medical conditions through retinal scanning.
The equipment will be used by researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH)/ The University of Nairobi (UON) and the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUHN).
The equipment leverages retinal scanning technology to predict the risk or presence of complications arising from hypertension and diabetes as an alternative to invasive screening methods currently in use.
The equipment is aimed at strengthening the local research capacity for NCDs and improving the screening capacity for NCDs in the country by identifying the risk or presence of complications arising particularly from hypertension and diabetes through a single retinal scan instead of separate tests.
“Access to healthcare is a key sustainability pillar for AstraZeneca and we are continuously leveraging science to strengthen the resilience and sustainability of healthcare systems,” Ashling Mulvaney said.
“We are glad to support this donation because it will potentially contribute to the future of non-invasive screening for NCDs by empowering the recipient research institutions here in Kenya,” she added.
Mulvaney is the Vice President, of Global Sustainability and Access to Healthcare at AstraZeneca.
Traditionally, hypertension - commonly known as high blood pressure - is screened by using a blood pressure measuring device, attached to a cuff wrapped around the upper left arm.
Diabetes, on the other hand, is screened for by taking a blood sample which is invasive, more costly, and requires a longer turnaround time for results.
People who dislike needles may also avoid the procedure.
It is hoped that through the equipment, however, screening for hypertension and diabetes will be carried out by scanning an individual’s retina for both simultaneously.
The image will then be processed through an online database stored in a cloud and compared to millions of other retinal scans by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to predict whether the individual has any of the conditions.
It is fast, non-invasive, and has the potential to be more cost-effective, especially for large-scale population-level screenings in the longer term.
According to the Head of the NCD prevention and control unit at the ministry Ephantus Maree, Kenya will require more than Sh350 billion to implement the 2021 – 2026 NCDs action plan. Only six per cent of the figure can be available.