By Pauline Tom
Ministry of Health is calling for prioritization of prevention and control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in an attempt to help halt and reduce the escalating burden of cardiovascular diseases in Kenya.
Speaking during an event to mark World Heart Day 2019, Dr Ephantus Maree, Head of NCD prevention and control unit at the Ministry of Health urged various stakeholders to embrace collaboration and partnerships in tackling the burden of cardiovascular diseases asking them to focus on awareness, screening initiatives and strengthening of healthcare systems.
Dr Maree also emphasized the need to prioritize prevention and control at both national and county level by the government and the public in order to tackle the NCD burden.
“Eight percent of Kenyans in their 40-69 age group are at a high risk of cardiovascular diseases with only 6.2 percent of them currently receiving drug therapy and counselling to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” Dr Maree said adding that, “healthy lifestyle changes can help avert Cardiovascular diseases trends with the ministry of health adopting world health organization best buy interventions to help reverse NCDs the trends.”
He also added that in a bid to reduce cost of care, the ministry of health has added Cardiovascular Diseases drugs in its essential drugs list to try make treatment affordable to poor patients.
“One in every four patients admitted at a time in Kenya hospitals has a cardiovascular condition thus making it a countrywide issue, addition of cardiovascular drugs to the Kenya Essential Medicine List (KEML) will help in reducing cost of treatment to patients,” Dr. Maree Said adding that “addition of cardiovascular drugs to the essential medicine list comes as good news and will go a long way in alleviating the burden of treating heart disease on Kenyan patients and help in easier prescription by the doctors.”
Kenya Cardiac Society in conjunction with the Ministry of Health, Novartis other partners celebrated the annual World Heart Day (WHD) in Nairobi County in an effort to raise awareness about Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs), including heart failure.
According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), every year, 17.9 million people die from CVDs representing 31 percent of deaths worldwide. In Kenya, 13 percent of deaths are related to CVDs and account for 25 percent of hospital admissions according to the National Stepwise Survey 2015.
Dr Maree urged both members of the public and healthcare providers to pay more attention to heart failures because of its potentially life-threatening condition which occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body.
“Heart failure can be caused by current or past medical conditions, which either damage or add extra workload to the heart. Common causes include past heart attacks, high blood pressure, lung conditions, diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, congenital heart defects among other ailments,” he explained.
According to Dr. Bernard Gitura, President Kenya cardiac Society, the major challenge we face in the fight against cardiovascular diseases is the low level of awareness of the causes and the impact of cardiovascular diseases among the general population.
“To tackle the growing problem at hand, we need to come together as a society and observe what we are consuming; hence encourage consumption of healthy diets, promote physical activity, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.” He said.
He urged need for sustained awareness creation on CVD prevention, early detection and management across the country’’ said Dr Bernard Gitura, President of the Kenya Cardiac Society.
Arpit Bansal, Country Group Head, English East Africa at Novartis said: “It is our belief that collaboration and partnerships are crucial to tackling the burden of cardiovascular diseases focusing on awareness, screening initiatives and strengthening of healthcare systems.
“At Novartis, we care about heart health and we support people living with cardiometabolic diseases not only with innovative treatments but also driving patient awareness through patient education materials such as the ‘Heart Failure Symptom Checker’ and ‘Talking to your Doctors Guide’ which are tools developed in collaboration with healthcare partners to improve health outcomes.’’ He said.
He added that the company has partnered with various health stakeholders in Kenya to increase learning, upskilling on diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases