Preventing Non-Communicable Diseases

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Since death is inevitable and every soul will taste it, there is no need to fear or worry about it. But we must be concerned about circumstances causing or leading to untimely and avoidable deaths, particularly among young persons.

It can be very painful facing the reality of the death of loved ones in their prime age. Experts believe that certain factors are responsible for untimely and avoidable deaths and that such could be prevented.

Aside accidents, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) have been identified as the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. According to Dr. Adeniyi Samuel Oginni, a public health physician, 39.5 million people die from NCDs every year. Oginni who is the Executive Secretary of Osun Health Insurance Agency said death due to NCDs constitutes 65% of global deaths. In his presentation at the Osun State House of Assembly, last week, Oginni said 38.9 per cent people die in their prime age as a result NCDs. He said NCDs are leading cause of morbidity and mortality in persons below 70 years.

He said that cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes mellitus, chronic respiratory diseases, sickle cell disease, mental disorders are major NCDs in Nigeria. He identified smoking of tobacco, harmful alcohol intake, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet as major NCDs risk factors. Oginni said: “Low and Middle-income countries bear 80% of the burden of premature deaths with most deaths occurring in the 40s and 50s age bracket. Most of these premature deaths are preventable through strengthened and responsive health systems, and public policies in sectors outside health.”

Now, it’s good that we know that most of the premature deaths are preventable and we can begin to tackle the problem and promote healthy living. That was why the 2019 Global Week for Action on Non-Communicable Diseases was marked last week with focus on ensuring healthy lives for all by dealing with NCDs in line with the Universal Health Coverage target of SDG goal three.

The major NCDs in Nigeria include cardiovascular diseases which come with hypertension, coronary heart diseases and stroke, chronic respiratory diseases (e.g. COPD, asthma), mental, neurological and substance use disorders; violence and road traffic injuries, and oral health disorders. The major NCDs risk factors or causes include tobacco use -smoking, harmful alcohol intake, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, environmental pollutants and also the climate change as globalization and industrialization have adjusted the ecosystem with unhealthy lifestyle patterns.

Up till 2015, no more than about 2-3 per cent of all official development assistance (ODA) for health was actually targeted at NCDs but surprisingly, NCDs were not addressed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Meanwhile, the 2030 agenda for sustainable development adopted at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 recognises NCDs as a major challenge for sustainable development. It is imperative that momentum be built to make increased funding available to countries which are going to be most affected in the next 10-20 years from the growing NCD burden.

At individual level, Nigerians must imbibe healthy lifestyle as panacea to NCDs so as to reduce preventable deaths which is rampant among the middle age. Collectively, we must embark on necessary advocacy, galvanise broader health and developmental agenda, push for enhanced good governance that would integrate the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases into the nation’s health-planning processes and development plans. We desire a world where everyone has the opportunity for a healthy life, free from preventable suffering; stigma, disability and death. We must unite to stimulate collaborative advocacy, action and accountability for NCD prevention and control in Nigeria.
––Hameed Oyegbade, Osogbo, Osun State