Experts call for partnerships to fight chronic diseases


Medical experts have called on governments and the private sector in Africa to partner and bridge gaps in healthcare capacity to prevent deaths resulting from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The experts from Africa, Asia and Europe who attended the Merck Africa Luminary Conference on the management of chronic diseases in Kenya last month (16-17 November), also called for a change in governance policy to focus more on local funding for health.

Nairobi County Governor, Evans Kidero, said to effectively detect, prevent and treat the rising NCDs cases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension in Africa, it is crucial to establish public-private partnership models involving health ministries, non-governmental organisations, academic institutions, patient associations and industries. ‘The size and complexity of the task is so large that no single organisation or institution can manage on its own. Integration of efforts is necessary to achieve the health gains that our nation deserves,’ Kidero, a trained pharmacist, told the conference.

More than five years ago, Kidero noted, communicable infectious diseases accounted for 80% of mortalities in Kenya, adding that NCDs have risen considerably, with cancer now ranked as the number three killer disease in the country.

James Macharia, then Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, said NCDs currently claim 28 million lives each year in developing countries, a total that accounts for 80% of the 35 million annual deaths from NCDs around the worldwide.

Macharia said Kenya is committed to the World Health Organization comprehensive global monitoring framework on the voluntary prevention of NCDs under the global action plan, which targets the reduction of mortality from NCDs by 25% by 2025.

Noting that NCDs are overtaking infectious diseases as the leading causes of mortality, Macharia concurred with the health experts that there is a need for African governments and the private sector to embrace new policies that address this challenge.

Macharia singled out the Merck e-Health initiative which uses digital platforms such as video conference technology to link general hospitals’ patients with referral hospitals specialists, as one way of bridging the infrastructure gap.

Karl Ludwig Kley, Chief Executive Officer of Germany-headquartered Merck, said Africa’s medical community should advance its expertise, as screening NCDs alone will not solve all problems, adding that the quality of care should also be improved.

Mohammed Habeebu, a consultant oncologist and radiotherapist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, says that the limited number of qualified medical oncologists hinders improved access to cancer healthcare in Africa.

Habeebu commends a Merck-funded fellowship programme for medical oncology for doctors across Africa as an opportunity for improved access to quality healthcare, especially to aid treatment of NCDs.

Written by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa (English) desk.


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