A medical expert, Professor Sunday Chinenye says that the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes and stroke continues to increase yearly even as at least five cases of stroke with gloomy outcomes are seen at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), every week.
Professor Chinenye, in a lecture entitled “Non-Communicable Diseases in Nigeria: The Research Evidence and Policy Responses”, at a valedictory programme to celebrate the retirement and 70th birthday of Professor Oladimeji Oladepo at the College of Medicine, Ibadan, said stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung diseases currently constitute the four topmost leading causes of death in Nigeria.
Chinenye, a former national president of the Diabetes Association of Nigeria, said in 2021, NCDs killed 41 million people, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally, with 77 per cent of these deaths occurring in low and middle-income countries.
While tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from an NCD, he stated that Nigeria is undergoing a demographic and epidemiological transition, with a concomitant increase in the risk factors for NCDs.
He declared, “globalisation and urbanisation affect our food culture, consumption habits and physical activity levels which lead to energy imbalance. Obesity is a growing problem and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. The current and true burden of NCDs, risk factors and complications in Nigeria is unknown; NCDs and its complications are costly to patients and our economy in Nigeria and the health system in Nigeria is still not addressing the current burden of NCDs and its complications.
“Scarce health care resources should be prioritised and focused on the management of NCDs and other risk factors to prevent complications. Treating complications, however, are costly, requiring providers with a high level of skill and specialised equipment, thus prevention of complications is therefore crucial.”
Dr. Oluwakemi Odukoya, an associate professor at the Department of Community Health and Primary Care at the University of Lagos, in her lecture, stated that implementation science can help to accelerate Nigeria’s NCD response as it presents unique strategies for the adoption of evidence-based interventions, especially in a resource-poor setting.
According to Odukoya, what is common to Nigeria’s national efforts at combating NCDs is that what works is known, but what is unknown is how best to make the intervention work.
“Primary prevention of diabetes is the most cost-effective strategy; we also know that screening works for early detection, yet screening is not embedded into primary health care (PHC). The prevalence of diabetes is put at 5.7 per cent but more than half are undiagnosed. High blood pressure is the number one risk for CVD/Stroke. Persons of African heritage are at risk, yet one in three adult Nigerians is hypertensive, many are uncontrolled and more than one in four are undiagnosed,” she added.