The increasing burden of chronic noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), particularly in the WHO African Region, threatens to overwhelm an already over-stretched health services. Conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes mellitus, mental health problems, chronic respiratory disease, injuries and disabilities, musculoskeletal conditions and genetic disorders challenge the health systems and absorb substantial amounts of resources.

In Africa NCDs accounted for 28% of morbidities and 35% of mortalities in 1990, these figures are projected to rise to 60% and 65% respectively by 2020, adding to the already high burden of communicable diseases. Some recent studies such as one countrywide survey of persons seeking health services above 50 years of age in Botswana have revealed that 67% and 12.4% of respondents had hypertension and diabetes respectively. This double burden of disease necessitates concomitant approaches and simultaneous interventions.

The economic impact of NCDs goes beyond the costs to health services. Indirect costs, such as lost productivity, can match or exceed the direct costs. In addition, a significant proportion of the total cost of care falls on patients and their families. People die from all chronic diseases at dramatically younger ages in the countries of the Region. In Africa, because NCDs are underappreciated as development issues and underestimated as diseases with profound economic effects, many governments take little interest in their prevention and control and NCDs have not received the priority attention in public health policies and programs commensurate with their disease burden.

Progress in implementing comprehensive NCDs strategies and policies has been hampered by fragmented, scarce and lack of resources. Scarce resources and lack of policies and strategies for controlling NCDs are key challenges in the Region. There is the need for a strong advocacy in favour of prioritizing NCDs and for technical assistance in implementing and monitoring cost-effective and integrated approaches for the early detection and management of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, sickle cell disease, chronic respiratory diseases, oral health and establish standards of health care for common conditions.

For more information please contact:

Dr Steven Shongwe
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Related links:

  1. No Noma
  2. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF)The International Diabetes Federation (IDF)is an umbrella organization of over 200 national diabetes associations in over 160 countries.
  3. The Sickle Cell Information Center
    The Sickle Cell Information Center: this site provides to sickle cell patient and professional education, news, research updates and world wide sickle cell resources.
  4. Atlas on Heart diseases and stroke
    Atlas on Heart diseases and stroke: This highly valuable reference material has been designed for use by policy makers, national and international organizations, health professionals and the general public.
  5. WHO/ICO (Institut Català d'Oncologia) Information Centre on HPV and Cervical Cancer
    WHO/ICO (Institut Català d'Oncologia) Information Centre on HPV and Cervical Cancer: the centre is developed to accelerate the development and introduction of prophylactic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines and reduce the incidence of this disease.
  6. Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention
    Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention: Five international agencies launched a major new effort to prevent cervical cancer worldwide particularly in developing countries.
  7. CANCERMondial
    CANCERMondial: This website provides access to information on the occurrence of cancer world-wide held and managed by the Cancer Information Section of IARC.
  8. “Cancer is...”
    “Cancer is...” is the series filmed in over 30 countries on five continents. It reveals the world of cancer including the hope, the research, the collaboration, the funding and the political support.