Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

With the burden of cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological disorders and diabetes rising in the region, African health ministers on Tuesday, endorsed a new strategy to boost access to the diagnosis, treatment and care of severe noncommunicable diseases.

The health ministers, gathering for the seventy-second session of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo, adopted the strategy, known as PEN-PLUS.

That plan will be implemented as a regional strategy to address severe noncommunicable diseases at first-level referral health facilities. The strategy supports building the capacity of district hospitals and other first-level referral facilities to diagnose and manage severe noncommunicable diseases.

#Malawi???????? has enhanced local #health services to save lives ????????✅ 444 clinicians & nurses trained ✅ 6 secondary level health facilities providing PEN-Plus care ✅ 300+ patients receiving #NCD services locally ➡️https://t.co/wRT9odu85Z#RC72AFRO pic.twitter.com/dbjgRftb3q— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) August 23, 2022

Africa’s hefty chronic disease burden

Severe noncommunicable diseases are chronic conditions that lead to high levels of disability and death among children, adolescents and young adults. In the worst cases, patients live no longer than a year after diagnosis. In Africa, the most prevalent severe noncommunicable diseases include sickle cell disease, type 1 and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, severe hypertension and moderate to severe and persistent asthma.

“Africa is grappling with an increasingly hefty burden of chronic diseases whose severe forms are costing precious lives that could be saved with early diagnosis and care,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

She went on to say that the strategy adopted today is pivotal in placing effective care within the reach of patients and “marks a major step in improving the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the region.”

In most parts of Africa, severe noncommunicable diseases are treated at health facilities in large cities. This exacerbates health inequities, as it puts care beyond the reach of most rural, peri-urban and lower-income patients. Moreover, these urban facilities often lack the capacity and resources to effectively manage severe noncommunicable diseases.

Standardized treatment packages