Overview: Noncommunicable diseases


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.

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  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.

Noncommunicable disease country profiles (2014)

For more information please contact:

Dr Steven Shongwe
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