A medical expert, Dr. Rufus Akinyemi says that Africa is now the world’s stroke capital based on the huge burden of the disease in the continent, just as he called for strategies to tackle the problem from the womb to the tomb.
Akinyemi, who spoke at the opening of a 2-day African Stroke Leaders’ Summit with the theme “Operationalizing a Roadmap for Reducing the Burden of Stroke in Africa: Vision 2030”, stated that stroke has now become the number one cause of death due to non-communicable diseases in the continent. It was organised by the African Stroke Organization (ASO) in partnership with Africa-UK Stroke Partnership Project (AUKSPP) in Ibadan.
Akinyemi declared that factors that drive stroke in Africa affect individuals through the lifespan of a man and the summit was convened to examine the current burden of stroke and draw up an African stroke action plan that African Stroke Organization, including national societies and countries, could take a cue to overcome the burden of stroke.
He stated: “About some decades ago, it was thought that hypertension and stroke are rare in Africa. But we know that stroke is a big problem on the African continent today. In fact, we like to describe Africa as the global stroke capital based on its huge burden because factors that drive it affect us from the womb to the tomb.
“The huge burden that Africa faces regarding stroke was what informed the passion to establish the African stroke organisation which was launched 20 months ago with a mission to reduce the burden of stroke in Africa.
“We are doing this by focusing on four key pillars of promoting stroke research; promoting and enhancing stroke services; advocacy, building capacity and training of the work force to combat the burden of stroke.”
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Dr Augustina Charway-Felli, President, African Academy of Neurology (AFAN), said that despite the huge burden of stroke in Africa access to quality stroke care is limited because specialist care for stroke is majorly in urban areas and there are few neurologists in many African countries.
According to her, most African countries had a ratio of neurologist to population of 0.12 per 100,000 contrary to the WHO recommendation of 1 to 5 per 100,000, and as such the need to train more specialists in different professions in the care of persons with stroke.
Dr Charway-Felli stressed the importance of increased public awareness on stroke prevention, de-stigmatisation of people with stroke, education on seeking medical attention early and differences between what is normal and abnormal with ageing.
Dean, Faculty of Clinical Sciences, University of Ibadan, Professor Mayowa Owolabi, however, said a major approach to tackling the incidence of stroke is the primordial primary and secondary prevention that targets the entire population given that one out of every four individuals have a risk of developing stroke and at the moment one Nigerian develops stroke every minute.
He added that hypertension as the leading factor for stroke is common in Africa and 46 per cent of African adults who are older than 25 years are hypertensive. Alarmingly 93 per cent of these are not controlled.