- The Ministry of Health in its Non-Communicable Disease Policy Brief affirmed that Kenya is undergoing an epidemiological transition.
- The transition is marked by a decline in morbidity and mortality due to communicable conditions and an increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74 per cent of all deaths globally.
The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases diabetes and mental disorders including depression, substance abuse, stress, and anxiety disorders.
The Ministry of Health in its Non-Communicable Disease Policy Brief affirmed that Kenya is undergoing an epidemiological transition.
The transition is marked by a decline in morbidity and mortality due to communicable conditions and an increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The epidemic of NCDs has overwhelming distress for individuals, families and society at large, and portends a challenge to the country’s health system.
The socio-economic costs associated with NCDs make the surveillance, prevention and control of these diseases a major health and development priority. Health and well-being are the primary goals of any country.
According to National Council for Population and Development, Kenya like most developing countries is facing a double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases.
In Kenya, NCD accounts for more than 50 per cent of total hospital admissions and over 55 per cent of hospital deaths.
In order to end and reverse the rising burden of NCDs in Kenya, the Government should focus on effective coordination of the implementation of existing policies and strategies aimed at diminishing the four major risk factors of NCDs.
The four are tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets as stipulated by WHO.
WHO affirms that detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.
This is in congruence with the Ministry of Health’s second strategic objective of Kenya Health Sector Strategic Plan 2018 – 2023 which targets to halt and reverse the rising burden of non-communicable conditions.
Managing the rising burden of NCDs in Kenya requires population-wide interventions including collaborative, multi-stakeholder partnerships.
However, the main emphasis should be on self-management.
This requires a lot of advocacy on the management of risk factors.
This should be coupled with deliberate actions aimed at the prevention of NCDs at all stages of life.
Prevention management strategy will include lifestyle management), awareness creation, health policy decisions, and global health strategies and innovations.
The Ministry of Health should formulate and strengthen legislations, policies, strategies and campaigns for the surveillance, prevention and control of NCDs of non-communicable diseases at national, county and community levels. The MoH further should fervently monitor their implementation.
Mental health treatment should be prioritized following increased deaths related to mental health challenges. It should infact be declared a national disaster.
According to WHO, an astounding 1 out of 4 persons who seek healthcare in Kenya suffer from a mental health condition.
Lifestyle modifications and interventions to decrease the risk of NCDs are the most effective ways of controlling the diseases.
The Ministry of Health has prioritized Primary health care to reach patients closer to where they live.
The Ministry working with the Council of Governors has committed to employ Community Health Promoters who will help detect NCDs at early stages.
On 21st June 2023, President Dr William Ruto while meeting with USAID Administrator Samantha Power affirmed that the government will hire 103,000 community health promoters as part of a preventive approach to healthcare.
He further asserted that Preventive healthcare saves lives and resources.
The government’s community health strategy that proposes to overcome the burden of accessible healthcare requires support from all stakeholders in the health sector.
This strategy is a sure bet in combating and managing non-communicable diseases. Community health promoters are thus a critical ingredient in the realization of UHC.
To confront the increasing burden of NCDs, contemporary strategies for the management of NCDs should be promoted especially at the individual level.
The Ministry of Health and its partners should enhance awareness creation about individual health.
NCDs are both a cause and a consequence of poverty which has been wreaking havoc on the economies of millions of individuals and families annually in Kenya.
A lot of investment is required in confronting the NCDs' common risk factors to save lives. This investment will consequently boost Kenya’s socio-economic development.
Eliud Muriithi is Director of Commercial Services at KEMSA