Earlier this year the World Health Organization (WHO) released a Global Action Plan for the prevention and management of the world’s most common diseases (NCDs):
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Respiratory diseases
NCD stands for noncommunicable diseases. These are chronic diseases that are non-infectious and cannot be passed from person to person. They result in long-term health consequences and often create a need for long-term treatment and care. A 2025 goal has been implemented to reduce premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 25%.
The global initiative took force in May 2013 when the 66th World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Action Plan on NCDs with a set of measures and suggested actions for WHO, countries and international partners. They adopted the global monitoring framework which lays out nine voluntary global targets for the diminishment of NCDs to begin being implemented. These included (source: GlobalHealth):
- Cut premature, avoidable deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025
- Decrease leading behaviours that increase the risk of NCDs, namely tobacco use, alcohol use, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets.
WHO organization states, “Implementing simple interventions that reduce NCD risk factors will decrease premature deaths by half to two-thirds. Health systems that respond to the needs of people with NCDs can reduce mortality by another third to half.”
The WHO, together with partners around the globe, are developing strategies and institutional building blocks to strengthen health systems at the roots of engaging with leaders to influence policies; encouraging research in order to modify unhealthy behaviors and to track the trends in monitoring the progress towards preventing and managing NCDs.
In the Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) Country Profiles conducted by the World Health Organization (2014), South Africa shows high NCD statistics: NCDs account for 43% of total deaths in the country.
On WHO’s noncommunicable diseases fact sheet they state, “An important way to reduce NCDs is to focus on lessening the risk factors associated with these disease. Low-cost solutions exist to reduce the common modifiable risk factors.” These risk factors are tobacco, alcohol, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.
Pharmacy lecturer at Rhodes University Professor Sunitha Srinivas, is pioneering a dialogue and initiative in Grahamstown for prevention and management called the MyHealth project. She explains that most of the medicine being procured for Makana are those for noncommunicable diseases. “I don’t come from a dispensing context. Medicine should be plan B and it has to be prevention first and only then followed by curation.”
The World Health Organization states that lower-income countries generally have a lower capacity for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases due to inadequate health insurance coverage which can provide information and expertise in NCD interventions. South Africa is one of these countries and that is why it is vital to begin at a grassroots level – through the community for the community.
“We need to create an awareness of self-care on both an individual and communal level. Health promotion is key,” said Professor Srinivas.
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