East African Non-Communicable Disease Alliance convenes in Kenya

East Africa Non-Communicable Disease Alliance

Members of the East Africa Non-Communicable Disease Alliance convened in Nairobe, Kenya, April 7-9 to discuss the group’s future, potential collaborations and goals to prevent NCDs in the region and country. Sandra Najuna, in-country consultant for the USC Institute for Global Health, attended the meeting, which also included advocacy sessions, research training and a research working group.

View—and share—the press release generated from the meeting below:

Africa is sleep-walking into a health disaster

Nairobi, April 09 2016 – “Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) control and prevention must become a regional development priority”, said David Mulabi, Chief Executive Officier of the East African NCDs Alliance (EANCDA). “Urgent action and regional political leadership from organizations like the World Health Organisation (WHO), East African Community (EAC) and African Union (AU) is needed to avoid millions of premature deaths from cancers, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases”, he added today while closing a three-day capacity building workshop focused on developing a comprehensive advocacy and research strategy to support East African governments’ efforts to reduce NCDs death by 25% by 2025.

If we do not take bold steps, we are sleep walking into a healthcare disaster. East Africa (and the wider Sub Saharan Africa) is on the brink of a major epidemiologic transition. According to the WHO, by 2030 Non-Communicable Dieseases (NCDs) deaths due to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease are projected to overtake communicable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). By that year, deaths from NCDs are expected to account for 42% of all deaths, up from approximately 25% today.

Although NCDs have been seen as diseases of the rich especially in developed counties, they are rapidly increasing in low and middle income countries. The situation is like a painless, malignant tumor which has been developing unattended and virtually ignored by our governments over the years. Unlike developed countries which have to deal with mainly only NCDs, Africa now faces the double burden of non-communicable and communicable diseases.

More work needs to be done at policy and institutional levels and controlling NCDs will require an all-of-society approach. The EANCDA aims to work closely with governments and regional bodies to support them in the development of policies, strategies and practical interventions, drawing from the expertise from a wide range of members and partners. The EA NCDA and other supporting partner organisations are calling on regional political leadership to prevent and control NCDs, including the adoption of a WHO African regional framework and an East African Community strategy on NCDs.

Our health systems are built to handle communicable disease to treat patients one off. But given their chronic nature, NCDs pose a new and greater challenge; they don’t only require massive efforts in prevention and control, but also require whole health system reforms and restructuring in areas including facilities, technologies and human resources. There is an urgent need for costed NCD plans with targets, and National NCD multisectoral commissions in all of the five East African countries.

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The Workshop participants hailed from national NCDs Alliance in Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Zanzibar (which are constituted by medical professionals with diverse specialties); the Global Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, the Danish Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance, Young Professionals – Chronic Diseases Network; and non-communicable diseases researchers from Arhus University in Denmark, Agha Khan University Kenya, Makerere University Uganda, University of South California, Yale University and the Framework Convention Alliance.

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