By Peter Tah & Olives Akem
Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have now become a great public health concern globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) says NCDs mainly cancers, cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and stroke), chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes kill 40 million people each year and accounts for a whopping 70% of all global deaths.
NCDs are generally thought to be major public health problems only in developed countries. However, the reality is different. NCDs disproportionately affect people in low- and middle-income countries where more than three quarters of global NCDs deaths – 31 million occur including Cameroon. WHO reported in 2012 that in Cameroon alone, out of total annual deaths of 239,000, NCDs are estimated to account for 31 per cent.
Ibrahim Jibbo, 65 years old, has been living with diabetes for 19 years now. Unlike many people living with the disease who sometimes do not show up for hospital appointments, he has been very serious about his health. He attends the diabetes clinic regularly. Diabetes runs in his family and he wishes for people to guard against habits that can attract this condition.
He says living with the condition for over a decade has not been easy due to inadequacy of money to cater for his restraint diet and transport fair to and from the clinic.
On her part, Roseline Nsom, aged 69, has been living with diabetes for over 34 years. She tells us that, “[This] disease has brought untold confusion to my life. At times I [pass out] … When I take certain foods I develop swellings on my legs and hands. This usually makes me feel depressed,” she laments.
Knowing the ordeal of living with diabetes, Rosaline advises people to take heed of it and other NCDs.
Prof. Tih Pius, Director of CBC Health Services and public health expert says this unfathomable rise in the incidence of NCDs is largely tied to dramatic changes in lifestyle of people in the communities. “[We] have actually drifted from what used to keep us healthy” he bemoaned.
He explains that, “In the past, people trekked forth and back for several activities which made them sweat and maintained a good shape. But today, the coming of motorbikes and vehicles has limited trekking thereby leading to the [unprecedented] rise in NCDs.”
Prof. Tih recommends regular physical exercise and healthy eating habits as great first steps towards keeping NCDs off our lives. Also, he stresses the need for people to abstain from tobacco and alcohol misuse.
In order to lessen the incidence of NCDs on the population, the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services (CBCHS) in 2016 set up the Non Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Program (NCD-PCP). As a result, a comprehensive approach has been put in place to reduce the risks associated with NCDs and promote interventions to prevent and control these emergent diseases.
In its take off phase, the program has been focusing on building capacities of CBCHS staff mainly doctors, consultants and nurses to effectively prevent and control NCDs. In March 2018, capacity building training workshops for two groups of workers with each averaging 50 persons took place at Nkwen Baptist Centre in Bamenda.
Ferdinant Mbiydzenyuy, NCD-PCP Coordinator says these trainings are aimed at strengthening the capacities of some workers of the CBCHS to appropriately receive patients, diagnose, assess and manage NCDs.
“The program expects to see a rise in the suspicion index of NCDs in CBCHS hospitals as is the case with other diseases after the training of the clinicians,” Mr. Mbiydzenyuy told CBCHS Press.
Dr. Julie Stone, NCD – PCP Clinical Adviser said the workshop participants would henceforth be effective in educating patients about NCDs so as to create a desire in them to adopt safer and healthy practices.
One of the strategies in the fight against NCDs in Cameroon is the setting up of “Know Your Numbers” corner in all CBCHS facilities. “Know Your Numbers” corners prompt people to walk into the hospitals and health centres of the CBCHS and check their crucial health numbers like weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and blood pressure to ensure they are within recommended range.
The CBCHS NCD – PCP is committed to seeing communities free of NCDs. The program hopes to achieve this through the following components: awareness, management and care, resource mobilization, research, policy advocacy, screening, monitoring evaluation and reporting. The program is currently funded by the CBCHS and Novartis.