Aging and the Rising Burden of Noncommunicable Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa and other Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Population Dynamics and Urbanization in Africa

  • January 2020
  • General

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are a prevalent and growing burden among older cohorts in sub-Saharan Africa and other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) as in many wealthier parts of the world. This stems from the combined effects of factors such as demographic aging, behavioral transitions, and developmental origins of health and disease. A crucial characteristic of many NCDs is that their personal and family impacts and costs are not accurately reflected in mortality data. Their effects are often chronic and long-term and can cause morbidity, loss of work ability, and impaired quality of life over a prolonged period. Unless addressed seriously, the continuing increase of NCDs and their burden in sub-Saharan African countries and other LMICs will almost certainly undermine progress toward achieving the target of reducing by 25% premature mortality from NCDs in these countries by 2025 and also one-third reduction of NCDs target by 2030. To have any chance of meeting or even getting near to these targets, this article calls for action by national and regional governments to strengthen universal health coverage (UHC), economic empowerment of vulnerable groups, public–private partnerships, effective fiscal regulation, and public education on NCDs, their risk factors and impacts in sub-Saharan Africa in particular and most LMICs globally.