Let’s face it: Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are preventable. Yet, they claim millions of lives annually.
According to the World Health Organisation, NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, followed by cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes. Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from a NCD, according to WHO.
How can countries stop these depressing figures? Did you know that digital technologies could offer solutions by empowering people with basic health information?
Against this background, the African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) was recently privileged to participate in the dialogue on curbing NCDs, at Wilton Park in London.
The meeting was convened to explore ways on how digital health can be used to tackle the growing burden of NCDs in low and middle income countries.
In his presentation, Dr. David Okello, ACHEST’s director of NDCs and Healthy Ageing, provided a basis for discussions on how best to deal with fragmentation of efforts between different healthcare and disease programs on the one hand; and the interests of different funding institutions on the other hand.
Dr. Okello observed that different healthcare organisations were working in silos yet more strides would be made if they collaborated.
The meeting reviewed different efforts to advance digital health in low and middle income countries (LMICs).
It was noted that many countries already have in place strategies and regulations for advancing digital health. However, these strategies are not designed for NCDs specifically; but could be used to advance the NCD agenda.
In this regard, the meeting discussed extensively the challenges of funding and creating partnerships to advance the NCD agenda.
It was noted that there is presently a lack of interest in creating a special fund for NCDs. Participants were quick to observe, however, that there may be room for catalytic funds to support national efforts.
Several groups in the meeting expressed interests in creating partnerships that will support LMICs to advance efforts to address NCDs. This would be in context of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and primary health care.
The Wilton Park dialogue brought together diverse stakeholders from governments, healthcare providers, private sector and other organisations. The key outcome of the discussion was to encourage countries to integrate efforts under the national health development agenda.
It was suggested that countries should make efforts to incorporate NCDs into their respective existing digital platform, rather than create a specific NCD digital platform.