Addressing the Prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria

Addressing the Prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria

 Experts at the recently held ‘Positive and Wellness Summit 2.0’ which also doubled as the 15th anniversary of Sickle Cell Advocacy and Management Initiative, SAMI, themed, ‘The Strength of it all” The Future of Non-communicable Disease in Nigeria’, spoke on ways to manage and address non-communicable diseases in other to curtail its surge and other impact in Nigeria. Sunday Ehigiator reports

According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) are diseases that are not spread through infection or other people but are typically caused by unhealthy behaviours and genetics. They are chronic diseases that result from a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors. NCDs are divided into four classes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74 per cent of all deaths globally. “Each year, 17 million people die from an NCD before age 70; 86 per cent of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Of all NCD deaths, 77 per cent are in low- and middle-income countries. “Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers, 9.3 million, chronic respiratory diseases 4.1 million, and diabetes, 2 million, including kidney disease deaths caused by diabetes. “These four groups of diseases account for over 80 per cent of all premature NCD deaths. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD. Detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs.” Statistics also showed that NCDs are responsible for about 24 per cent of total deaths in Nigeria. These deaths are unnecessary as most NCDs can be prevented if the risk factors are dealt with. It was against this backdrop that experts at the ‘Positive and Wellness Summit 2.0’, deliberated on ways to manage and prevent NCDs.

About positive and wellness

 In her welcome address, the Executive Director of SAMI, Toyin Adedolapo said the event was to create more awareness of non-communicable diseases, especially sickle cell. “The awareness of non-communicable diseases is not much compared to communicable diseases like TB. “We need the medical sector to collaborate with the corporate sector and the government to provide health financing for people with non-communicable diseases. “One of the challenges of non-communicable diseases is health insurance. The insurance premium for non-communicable diseases is so high that sickle cell patients can barely afford it. That is why the government needs to look through and push for non-communicable disease financing, by beginning with a law on funding for non-communicable disease.”

Speaking on SAMI’s remarkable achievements in 15 years, she said, SAMI, is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 with a vision to create a society where Sickle Cell Disorder is reduced, and individuals and families affected by this condition can lead healthy, positive, and productive lives. “Our mission to empower and improve the lives of people with sickle cell disease through education, awareness, and support has been nothing short of remarkable. “Let us take a moment to celebrate our remarkable achievements throughout the years, including the ‘Xtracare Free Clinic’, which has reached around 13,000 cases, providing essential medical outreach to those in need. “Our ‘Project W-Rescue’ has supported over 100 beneficiaries with medical and hospital bills amounting to over N5 million,truly making a difference in people’s lives. “Moreover, the ‘Adopt a Warrior’ initiative has placed 70 high-risk chronic disease patients on health insurance, ensuring they have access to necessary medical care. SAMI’s initiatives have extended beyond borders with the ‘Touch A Cell Radio Show’, funded by the Public Affairs Service of the US Consulate Lagos, reaching over 3000 people, educating and raising awareness about sickle cell disease. “In collaboration with the Sickle Cell Health Initiative and Xcene Research Limited, SAMI has also hosted the firstever pain summit in Nigeria, educating 100 medical personnel on the challenges and management of pain. “Today, as we gather here, we celebrate SAMI’s legacy of compassion, dedication, and resilience in the face of adversity. The positive impact they have made on countless lives has been nothing short of inspiring.”

The role of mental health

Speaking on the role of mental health in managing NCDs in Nigeria, Mental Health Therapist and Chief Executive Officer of Reuel Consulting Limited, Mr Totuse Francis admonished parents, guardians, and people living with sickle cell disorder and any other forms of non-communicable diseases, not to put all their hope in medication when dealing with crises associated with the disease. Francis said, “The thing about dependency on medication is once the body gets used to it, and then it doesn’t work anymore, they increase the dosage and it goes on and on because the pain they experience is sometimes unexplainable.” He explained that, sometimes the pain can make them feel like ending their own life when all the medications they take seem not to be sufficient to take away the pain.

“Another aspect of this kind of experience that they have is addiction. There are different techniques in therapy to help patients who need help. There is psychotherapy, which is like talk therapy, there’s cognitive behavioural therapy, and there is just stop therapy, which factors in different aspects or different techniques during therapy. “

We adopt the one that works well for the person. It is different from medication where only psychiatry is to recommend medication.”

The Role of Neurology

Speaking on the role of Neurology in Sickle Cell Disorder management, Prof Mustapha Danesi a Consultant Neurologist said, “Black people are more prone to be Sickle Cell carriers. “Sickle cell disease is quite common in this part of the world. It is very difficult to know the exact prevalence but we do have a large number of people here with sickle cell. I can’t say the exact figure but it is very large.

The majority of sicklers in the world are found in Africa.” Danesi explained that it is best to start testing immediately once they discover a person has sickle cell. Check the system to find out whether they have very high cerebral blood flow. “So the earlier they start testing the better for the patient, because if you start testing early you will be able to discover those who are at risk and then give preventive treatment and preventive measures. “So that at the end of the day, they will live a normal life, but if you don’t start early like in this part of the world you may have complications before you start taking treatments. So it is better to prevent it than to start treating after they have had these complications.”

The role of good nutrition

Speaking on the role of healthy living and good nutrition in managing NCDs, Food Scientist and Nutritionist, Dolapo Coker who spoke on the Impact of Nutrition on Health, said, “Food is the major ingredient for wellness. The ingredients in the food contain micronutrients, vitamins, and enzymes.” “You must never have a favourite food. Eat a variety of foods because of the micronutrients available in the various kinds of foods. Don’t run away from oil and fats because some of the vitamins are in the oils and fats. So if you don’t get oil, you will be losing some of the vitamins. Water is life, drink enough water. Engaging in daily exercise is very important.”

The art-therapy approach

Speaking on ways art can be therapeutic in managing NCDs, Art Therapeutic Coach, Olayinka Enahoro said, “People with mental health conditions are more likely to develop non-communicable diseases. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can increase the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.” Enahoro added that lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise can increase the risk for both mental health conditions and non-communicable diseases. “Prioritizing both physical and mental health is crucial in preventing non-communicable diseases and achieving overall success. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. “Hence there is a need for you to practice mindfulness, exercise, and seek help when needed, while also understanding that, addressing mental health as part of preventive care can also improve overall health outcomes.”

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