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Death toll from chronic diseases rising in Africa as economies grow, new report finds

Aug 27, 2014, 11:21 AM | Article By: EIU

By 2030, chronic, non-communicable diseases will claim more lives in sub-Saharan Africa than infectious diseases

  • .Societal shifts create opportunities for unhealthy lifestyle choices which lead to the rise of chronic diseases
  • .Improving data, focusing on prevention and empowering patients through self-help groups can help to slow the disease trends

A new report by The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that by 2030 chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes—will claim more lives in the region than infectious diseases.

Sub-Saharan African healthcare: the user experience, sponsored by Novartis, finds that societal shifts such as urbanisation and fast economic growth—which, taken alone, are mainly positive—contribute to the growth of chronic diseases by reducing healthy lifestyle options. For example, cities often bring more people into contact with pollution, or can be unsafe places in which to exercise.  And increased wealth enhances the options for making unhealthy choices, such as enabling motorised transportation instead of walking.

Widespread lack of understanding of NCD-related risk, and even of the nature of NCDs themselves, impedes prevention and treatment, the report finds.

The study also shows that NCDs place a crushing cost burden on a large number of patients, with a majority needing to borrow in order to fund treatment. Yet, expensive though it is, NCD care in Africa is often of poor quality. The study finds that improvements in a variety of areas can start making a difference, however.

These include: improving data, promoting prevention, empowering patients, expanding use of existing personnel and assets and introducing universal health care.