by Danielle Doughman, Policy Outreach Manager, APHRC Non-communicable diseases, or NCDs, are illnesses or conditions including cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity that progress slowly over time, and are increasingly...
Health is the backbone of a nation. Sub-Saharan Africa bears a disproportionate burden of ill-health, and health remains largely under-funded by many governments in the region. In 2010, HIV/AIDS claimed up to 1.2 million lives in sub-Saharan Africa and a further 22.9 million people, including 2.3 million children, were living with HIV/AIDS. The region is also now increasingly threatened by non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive respiratory disease.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and their risk factors are increasing in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Out of the many NCDs, four–cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory illnesses–have been identified globally as being responsible for the greatest burden. These four disease groups also share a set of four risk factors namely tobacco use, unhealthy diets, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity. In the last few years, WHO/UN member states have made global commitments to take action on NCDs with national governments being urged to develop, fund and implement strong NCD policies.
As part of its global Action Plan on NCDS, WHO identified Multi-Sectoral Action (MSA) as a cornerstone for NCD prevention at population level. MSA for health refers to actions undertaken by sectors outside the health sector, possibly, but not necessarily, in collaboration with the health sector, on health or health-related outcomes or the determinants of health or health equity. WHO also identified several “Best Buys” for NCD prevention including measures to reduce common risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol that would deliver the greatest benefit in reducing population level risk in a cost-effective manner. Best Buys require MSA in most cases.
There is limited research on the application and success of MSA in implementing the Best Buys in sub-Saharan Africa. To help fill evidence gaps, APHRC is implementing a multi-country study to promote multi-sectoral policy-making and action for NCD prevention by providing evidence on the effectiveness of these approaches. The evidence from six countries across SSA will be used to catalyze a process of policy engagement by the established network of researchers to support efforts to adopt MSA into policy making and programming.