The Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare says it has embraced a proactive approach to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with strong emphasis on prevention within the country.
This was revealed by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Pate, in an interview monitored yesterday (October 18, 2023) in Abuja.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs are responsible for 29 per cent of all fatalities in Nigeria, with premature mortality stemming from the four primary NCDs, including hypertension, diabetes, cancer and malnutrition. Premature mortality from these leading NCDs constitutes 22 per cent of all deaths in the country.
Pate acknowledged the continued prevalence of infectious diseases such as malaria, diphtheria, and measles while pointing out the alarming rise in NCDs like hypertension, diabetes, cancers, kidney disease and strokes in the nation. Recognising the imperative need for preventive measures, he emphasised that the government would be implementing strategies designed to promote healthier lifestyles and regulate harmful substances.
The proactive approach is set to encompass the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at advocating healthy lifestyles and reducing the prevalence of risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful alcohol consumption. Pate urged state governments to actively engage in raising awareness and educating citizens regarding the significance of adopting healthy behaviors and making prudent choices in their communities. He also underscored the value of collaborative efforts across various sectors in addressing NCDs within the country.
The minister called for partnerships among the government, civil society organisations, the private sector, and international agencies to ensure the effective implementation of preventive and control measures throughout the nation. Additionally, he highlighted the importance of community engagement and empowerment as integral in fostering behavioral change and sustainable health outcomes. It was further emphasised that continued investments in healthcare infrastructure, including primary healthcare facilities, are vital to ensuring access to quality preventive services.
Urbanisation and evolving lifestyles have led to increased consumption of unhealthy foods, reduced physical activity, and higher rates of smoking and alcohol consumption, contributing significantly to the NCD situation in the country. Pate also pointed out the challenge of accessing healthcare, particularly in rural areas, especially for the prevention and management of NCDs. He stressed the need for adults to regularly monitor their blood pressure and called for enhanced public awareness and education on NCD risks and prevention.
The Nigerian government has initiated several programs to combat NCDs, with a focus on integrating NCD services into primary healthcare. Pate urged Nigerians to reduce significant modifiable risk factors, such as cigarette use, excessive alcohol consumption, poor dietary choices, and lack of physical activity.
He highlighted the necessity of enforcing high food and beverage standards, promoting increased physical activity in schools and workplaces, monitoring air quality and establishing smoke-free zones to minimise the incidence of NCDs throughout all stages of life. The shift from treatment to prevention, according to Pate, is critical, as it can significantly reduce the occurrence and impact of NCDs on individuals and the healthcare system as a whole.
Pate concluded by stating that: “These diseases are responsible for a significant proportion of deaths and disabilities worldwide, including in Nigeria”. He emphasised the significance of early detection and timely intervention in managing NCDs, which would ultimately alleviate the burden on individuals and the country’s healthcare system.