We commend the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) in the United Kingdom for providing funding for the establishment of the NIHR Global Health Research Centre for NCDs Control in West Africa.
The centre will comprise the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) as the co-lead institutions working in partnership with other institutions, namely Ashesi University, Ghana, Catholic University of West Africa (UCAO-UUB), Burkina Faso; and Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherche sur les Dynamiques Sociales et le Développement Local (LASDEL), Niger.
The researchers at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeon deserve a thumps up for their foresight in putting up this laudable proposal to draw funding to tackle the NCD challenge in the subregion.
We are of the strong conviction that the five-year project will lead to fashioning out appropriate policies and programmes to help stem the rising disease burden in Ghana and, for that matter, the West Africa subregion.
We call on the Ministry of Health, the governments of Ghana, Burkina Faso and Niger, as well as ECOWAS, to give their full support for the project.
This is important because there are abundant reports in the medical and research literature that raise concerns about both infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
For instance, disease burden in Ghana and other lower income countries is said to be transiting from predominantly infectious diseases to chronic and degenerative diseases involving high occurrence of NCDs.
The drift in Ghana’s disease burden over the years, from infectious diseases or communicable diseases to NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, is said to be taking a heavy toll on the population, and so there is the need for urgent measures to address the phenomenon.
Some of the factors responsible for this rise in NCDs in the country are changing lifestyles, poor diet, lack of moderate exercise, ageing and inadequate health system infrastructure and capacity.
Indeed, the statistics on the prevalence of NCDs is very scary as they are projected to be on the increase in lower- and middle-income countries, including Ghana, with the rise in the causative factors.
Across the world, NCDs kill 41 million people yearly, equivalent to 74 per cent of all deaths globally.
A report by WHO in April 2022 highlighted the alarming rate of deaths from NCDs in Africa, pointing it out that NCDs were increasingly becoming the main cause of mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, where the diseases were responsible for 37 per cent of deaths in 2019, rising from 24 per cent in 2000.
Specifically, Ghana recorded over 613,633 cases of hypertension and over 200,000 cases of diabetes in 2021.
Cardiovascular disease is responsible for18,000 deaths annually in Ghana.
NCDs cause loss of jobs and household incomes, thereby deepening poverty, inequality and financial risk.
Though the economic burden is not fully known, a study of 23 lower- and middle-income countries, for instance, estimated that $84 million of economic production was going to be lost to heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes between 2006 and 2015.
We are all at risk of NCDs, so media organisations should deem it a duty to highlight the devastating effects of the NCDs on the population, and to garner national support to help address the major public health challenges facing us.