The Ministry of Health has on 12 and 13 June conducted a two-day workshop on major Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). The workshop aimed at providing orientation on the risk factors of NCDS and information on prevention and control mechanisms of various killer but neglected diseases. Governmental and non- Governmental institutions participated in the workshop which was facilitated by experienced medical doctors form Orotta National Referral Hospital. Despite their dire consequences, NCDs are the most ignored diseases. That is why the Ministry of Health organized a workshop that involves various institutions in a bid to establish a national multi-sectorial NCD committee that will engage in conducting sustainable awareness raising campaigns.
Unlike communicable diseases, NCDs are not contagious and most of the time people fail to give them due attention. Since NCDs are mostly hereditary or caused by lifestyle choices and, by environmental influences, a number of people consider them less severe than communicable disease and hold wrong notions that NCDs are curable and these perceptions complicate the dangers of such diseases.
The treatment of NCDs is very expensive. Since such chronic diseases affect the human body for long-term their treatment is very difficult. In the past, they were considered diseases of developed countries, but they are increasingly becoming common in developing countries as people’s lifestyles change.
Cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and asthma are the major NCDs at a global level. The prevalence of such diseases is increasing in Eritrea.
NCDs kill over 36 million people every year at a global level.
NCDs are caused by lifestyle choices, smoking, abuse of alcohol, lack in physical activity and consumption of food that contain large amount of salt, sugar and fats.
NCDs that are caused by lifestyle are less common in rural Eritrea. Most of the people in rural areas eat organic food and are less prone to diseases associated with the fast food culture
NCDs due to change in life style are more common in the urban and semi-urban areas of Eritrea. Change in life style has been the cause for an increase in the prevalence of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes and other chronic NCDs.
Eritrea has made remarkable progress in the prevention and control of communicable diseases. It is high time to mitigate NCDs through concerted efforts.
There are estimates that NCDs would bring a total of USD 47 Trillion global burden over the next two decades.
The workshop on NCDs discussed topics related to global and national epidemiological situation of NCDs, symptoms of the major NCDs, risk factors and aggravating factors, effects of nutrition in worsening complications, short and long term consequences of NCDs, management and self-care of NCDs, treatment and patient compliance, and prevention and control of NCDs.
Dr. Mulugeta Haile, an MD. from Orotta National Referral Hospital, said that 40% of cancer cases are preventable. The main causes of cancer are alcoholic drinks and smoking and, therefore, are preventable through behavioral change.
“Cancer, one of the major NCDs in the world, along with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases cause over 60% of the total global mortality every year,” Dr. Mulugeta said.
In Eritrea, NCDs among the age-group ranging from 30 to 70 account for 24% of all deaths. Death due to cardiovascular diseases constitutes 14%, death due to cancer is six percent, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes two percent each, and death due to other NCDs is 12%.
According to the presentations of all the medical doctors from Orotta Referal Hospital, the factors aggravating the condition of the major NCDs in Eritrea are late diagnosis, denial of the disease, use of herbal medicine and adherence to traditional practices, drug misuse, loss of stress-coping mechanisms and an assumption that NCDs are curable.
Cardiovascular surgeries have been carried out inside the country in collaboration with expatiate doctors. As a result, a number of children and adults have survived.
The workshop focused on minimizing the risk factors of NCDs by promoting healthy lifestyle, providing health education to the public and encouraging women, to undergo self-breast examination, clinical breast examination, mammography and ultrasound examination.
Smoking and drinking alcoholic beverage are the major factors aggravating and complicating NCDs. Dr. Daniel Ghebretensaie, an MD. said that anti-smoking health education to the general public and specially focusing on adolescents and on occupational groups, highlighting the positive effects of not smoking and quitting smoking, and increasing the awareness of people for the rights of non-smokers are expected to have positive impact in the reduction of risk factors.
In his presentation on asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases, Dr. Daniel said that at times COPD has been misinterpreted as asthma. Although chemical hazards and indoor pollutions are the major causes of asthma, 70-80% of COPD cases are rather caused by smoking, Dr. Daniel emphasized.
Dr. Naod Fekadu, an MD, said that in 2013 there was a total of 7.1 million diabetes cases in Africa, and this number is expected to rise to 20 million by 2020. Dr. Naod added that self-monitoring, proper utilization of Glucometer and proper reading and interpretation, are effective ways of reducing complications associated with diabetes.
Obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse are the major causes and aggravating factors of NCDs-cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension and Dr. Samuel Kiflay says their prevention mechanisms mainly through healthy lifestyle.
The medical doctors who presented on topics related to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, said that frequent consumption of processed food, smoking and alcoholic drinks have been responsible for an increase in the prevalence of NCDs. As part of its efforts to mitigate the risks of such neglected diseases the Ministry of Health has established a National multi-sectorial Committee that is expected to play a significant role in the dissemination of information on the prevention and control mechanisms of NCDS.