Maybe by now, some of you have figured out beyond my penchant Nollywood, the mindless sputterings (made-up word, I think) of old Igbo men – such as this one and oh man, this one – I also have some interest in chronic disease management outside of the West (it’s a budding interest, but an interest, no less). Even diseases traditionally thought of as acute (meaning you either get over it or die really quickly) are increasingly requiring a paradigm shift towards long-term care (namely, AIDS). Unfortunately, poor health infrastructure means that it is next to impossible to address such chronic disease care issues in the developing world. The recent health saga still unfolding with our nation’s (former?) president serves as case-in-point. When it comes to addressing complex chronic disease, the shuttling of our indigenes to foreign hospitals is, understandably, all too common.
Developing nations find themselves in double jeopardy – battling acute infectious diseases while remaining horribly unprepared to face the rising threats of “first-world” health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, motor vehicle accidents, mental illness, etc. Large-scale disease-centric interventions, at times, serves to weaken overall health infrastructure, placing focus (and funding) on one or two diseases to the neglect of others – most oftentimes non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Consider NCDs as the latest addition to the category of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
A recent study published in the the journal, PLoS medicine (H/T Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report) found that high NCD burden served as a major barrier to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which excludes NCDs among its list of health priorities, but includes HIV, tuberculosis, infant and maternal mortality. In regards to progress towards MDGs, reduction in NCD burden by 10% was nearly the equivalent to a 40% rise in GDP (or at least five years of economic growth in developing countries). The study highlighted the fact that NCDs play an important role in the complicated relationship between poverty and health and as a result, greater emphasis should not only be placed on addressing NCDs, but on health systems as a whole.
Our findings suggest that achievement of feasible reductions in the impact of these chronic diseases on poor households could greatly enhance progress towards existing health MDGs. If not adequately addressed, high rates of NCDs in low-income countries may further impede progress towards the health MDGs.
To bring it closer to home, the World Health Organization estimates that Nigeria loses about 400 million dollars a year in national income from premature deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. I wonder, if that figure includes revenue lost from exporting the healthcare of our presidents to other countries.