More than 20 years ago, the disease burden in Kenya and the rest of the developing countries in Africa and Asia has been dominated by communicable diseases. Over time, the paradigm shift has occurred and the danger for the future lies with non-communicable diseases.
What are the common non-communicable diseases?
NCDs are non-infective diseases that are family-related or lifestyle-related which progress slowly. The diseases in this category include but not limited to diabetes, hypertension, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart attack and stroke.
How common are these diseases?
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill more than 36 million people each year. Some 80% of all NCD deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (WHO, 2016). This is a worrying trend in developing countries like Kenya whose infrastructure and economy are already overburdened by malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. The International Federation of Diabetes has projected that by 2020, Africa will be having the highest prevalence of diabetes and hypertension.
What causes these chronic diseases?
Each chronic disease has a unique set of factors that predispose to its development but what is common to all of them is the fact that they are multifactorial. The interesting fact to note is that lifestyle contributes a lot. With the shift towards the westernised lifestyles, developing countries are poised to be worst hit by these diseases. Diet and exercise are the difference between disease freedom and disease causation.
Chronic diseases are not treatable within a week just like malaria or other communicable diseases.It is a lifelong management process that involves not only the use of drugs but also lifestyle and behavioural modifications. The victims are forever changed by their conditions and some of them end up suffering from psychological conditions such as depression. This dictates that a multidisciplinary approach is the best management model.
The good news about chronic diseases is that majority are preventable. For this to be achieved, the society has to be actively involved. The media community, scientific community and the political community should take this upon themselves to educate people and encourage them to live healthy lives. New cultural and social beliefs should be inculcated to make the measures ingrained.