In response to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya, the Ministry of health should screen patients to detect NCDs such as hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory illnesses early.
Dr. Jeanette Yego, Consultant Internal Medicine specialist at City Health Hospital, emphasizes the importance of preventive and promotive healthcare, stating that screening plays a pivotal role in detecting patients early and treating them effectively.
“The government should invest in primary health care in order to improve on early detection and timely management of NCDS,” She observed.
She says that, if Primary Healthcare (PHC) is properly implemented it will address accessibility challenges and human resource shortfalls in the health service delivery and will help us attain universal health coverage.
PHCs will help address preventive and promotive measures that will lessen the burden of NCDs through lifestyle modifications. However, their role in management and prevention of these diseases are currently minimal because of lack of investments in screening tools and facilitation to aid their work.
For instance, in communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and maternal and reproductive health, PHCs have done tremendous work in prevention and health promotion. When it comes to NCDs there is limited simultaneous action.
Data on NCDs risk factors revealed problems like smoking, alcohol intake, poor dietary habits with low intake of fruits and vegetables, high intake of saturated fats and salt together with high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
Genetic predisposes to NCDs is also a risk factor especially when you have a family history of someone diagnosed with any NCD.
“To terminate the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease, we cannot only focus on simply treating the sick, but must also seek to protect the healthy by address the root causes of these diseases. Ultimately the response to NCD’s must be embedded within health plans that prioritize prevention and are directed at achieving universal health coverage (UHC).”
“Regular monitoring of population health by routine screenings can help reducing and management of some of the risk factors and improve health and wellbeing,” she says.
She encourages lifestyle and behavior changes by eating healthy and nutritious food, doing physical activity and advocates for avoiding alcohol and tobacco consumption.
“We should intensify awareness campaigns by engaging key community-based groups and civil society networks to increase the provision of reliable and factual information about NCD’s, their risks and prevention within our populations and communities.”
She also calls for NCD diseases prevention and health promotion through establishment of mechanisms for engaging multisectoral stakeholders from health and non-health sectors including government at all levels, NGOs, schools, universities, and communities.
All schools should provide health education programs and have spaces that promote frequent engagement in physical activities and healthy eating habits.
Work places should also have spaces where employees can do physical activities.
NCDs pose a significant economic threat to Kenya, NCDs not only affect health, but also productivity and economic growth. The probability of one dying during the most productive years (ages 30-70) from NCDs is very high if not prevented and managed well.