Nigeria ill equipped to prevent looming NCDs epidemic —Study

As a silent epidemic of non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, stroke and cancers looms in Nigeria, a study has rated the country ill equipped for the danger, saying it has very few policies in place to prevent these diseases.

In a preliminary analysis of non communicable diseases prevention policies in Africa, experts found few NCD prevention policy documents in Nigeria that tackle physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, alcohol and tobacco use, all modifiable risk factors for these diseases.

At a dissemination workshop in Ibadan on the findings of the study, the team leader of the study, Professor Oladimeji Oladepo  stated that although Nigeria has developed its National Policy and Strategic Plan of Action on Non-Communicable however, this has not been published and disseminated.

The researchers are based at the African Regional Health Education Centre, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Ibadan.

According to him, “Tobacco use is the only modifiable risk factor with the most comprehensive set of policy actions which aligns with global recommendations. Alcohol currently has no comprehensive health-sector driven policy to regulate its marketing, advertising and availability.”

While there are no legal acts to regulate the activities of the food industry with regards to salt and trans-fat content of manufactured foods, he said proposed actions in the policies on salt and trans-fat content of foods were largely educational interventions for the general population.

He added, “Policy documents which outlined actions to tackle physical inactivity do not include the globally recommended best buy interventions.

“As far as WHO recommendation concerning all the policies are concerned, there is a low level of MSA (except for tobacco) and several relevant sectors pertinent to the implementation of the policies were not involved in the formulation process”

Oladepo, however, highlighted challenges found by the study against proper policy to curb increasing cases of NCDs formulation and its implementation to include over-dependence on donor funding, low or non-existent government budgetary allocation to support the process and funding constraint to implement and enforce any proposed actions.

According to him, “There is a poor understanding of the roles of different sectors in NCDs prevention. In fact, a lot of the NCD-related policies are due for review. They are obsolete and as such reviewing them will provide the opportunity to mainstream the best buy interventions into them.  Also, the political prioritisation and funding for NCDs remains low.

“There has been a gap, the civil society organisations and advocates had largely focused on tobacco control and not yet on other facts that are linked to NCDs.”

Earlier, Mrs Mojisola Oluwasanumi giving an overview of the study said globally, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory disease were the four biggest killers.

She said that as far back as 2008, a tenth of deaths in Nigeria were due to NCDs, adding that by eliminating the shared risk factors for these diseases, the burden of these diseases would go down rapidly.