How NCDs kill most productive population, destroy economies – Akpaka

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By Vivian Ihechu

Dr Akpaka Kalu of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted ways in which Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) kill the most productive population, thereby destroying economies and setting back development.

Kalu, Team Lead, Strategic Planning and Policy, Communicable & Non Communicable Cluster (UHC/CND), WHO African Region, spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday.

He spoke on the sidelines of the maiden annual International Conference on PEN-Plus in Africa (ICPPA) on chronic and severe non-communicable diseases taking place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The conference, with the theme: “Prioritising Person-Centered Approach to Chronic and Severe NCDs: Type 1 Diabetes, Sickle Cell Disease, and Childhood Heart Diseases,” holds from April 23 to April 25.
It provides a unique opportunity for public health leaders and scientists in Africa and beyond to reflect on latest research on NCDs prevention and management.
It is also to share lessons learnt on integrated health systems, forging the way forward to create robust health systems able to provide vital care for severe NCDs in Africa.
The conference is hosted by WHO African Regional office in collaboration with the Helmsley Charitable Trust (HCT) and the Republic of Tanzania.
The NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, diabetes among others.
Kalu said: “The NCD is a very expensive thing to manage. Hence, we need to integrate NCDs’ management and control within the primary health care system so that it is affordable and available to everybody that needs it.
“Until we do that, we are failing our people because it’s possible to do it. We have to do it as a matter of urgency.
“And you know who the NCD kills? The most productive population.
“So, NCD doesn’t just kill your people. It also destroys your economy because the skills set to run the economy are the ones affected by NCD.
“It’s an emergency because every one of us, everyone who perhaps is 40 years and above, is at risk of one NCD or the other.
“Go and look at it, people who are affected by NCDS, the majority of them are 40 to 60 years. The most productive, the most experienced hands in our industry are the ones that suffer in service.’’
According to him, some NCDs may also affect children and young people, but when it impacts the most productive sector of the population, like they are doing now, governments should worry.
“Think about yourself if you are in government. If you are in charge of deploying those resources, why don’t you think about yourself, the state of the health system, the level of access to NCD services?
“If you happen to get that NCD tomorrow, will that health system be able to help you as an individual?
“If the answer is no, then you’ll be foolish not to invest in building the system to take care of you.’’
He said that existing data should lead to actions to change the indices on the NCDs.
“For instance, if 25 per cent of your population, your outpatient consultation, is hypertensive, you should be thinking of putting 20 to 25 per cent of your expenditure to control this ailment.
“If you do nothing, that is basically abandoning the economy to be destroyed because this population will come down with stroke.
“And unfortunately, that 25 per cent will include you because you are in that age bracket, because your lifestyle is probably the same as the people that come down with it.
“So, for selfish reasons, leaders in government should invest in prevention and control of the NCDs, because you may be the next patient,’’ he told NAN.
Kalu stressed the need for government to build the capacity to monitor everybody to prevent NCDs and these would include screening for early detection and early treatment, advising people to be active and embrace physical exercise.
“We are relatively inactive. You walk from your air conditioned office into a chauffeur driven car to the next airport.
“Of course, you will come down with heart disease, cardiac disease, all sorts of things, hypertension, inactivity and that’s a challenge.
“Hypertension, different thrombosis, diabetes, and cancers will not warn you that they are coming.
“So, why don’t you build the capacity to be able to monitor everybody and prevent it or find it on time, screening and early detection and early treatment?
“Cancer shouldn’t have to kill, if it’s detected early, through a programme for early detection.
“We should ask ourselves what changes do we make in the health system in order to ensure that appropriate services are available and accessible?
“ Economically accessible, physically accessible to those who need it, because it can be physically accessible but not economically not accessible.
“This means you also have to deal with issues of functional health insurance,’’ Kalu said. (NAN)(

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Edited by Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma

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