Covid-19: Effects of non-communicable diseases worry govt

Sunday April 18 2021
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Other diseases, including the Non-Communicable Diseases are still a threat to humanity even as the world is still grappling with the Covi-19 pandemic. PHOTO/FILE/COURTESY/ADB

By Juliet Nalwooga

The Ministry of Health has raised a red flag over the rate at which non-communicable disease (NCD) cases have worsened health conditions for Covid-19 patients.

Addressing journalists in Kampala last week, Dr Joyce Moriku Kaduchu, the State Minister for Health in-charge of Primary Healthcare, noted that the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated health outcomes of people with NCD, especially diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Dr Kaduchu said: “At least 80 per cent of the 338 Covid-19 deaths had comorbidities of either diabetes or hypertension.” 

She attributed the increase in NCD cases to ignorance among people about pre-NCD conditions that can be averted before it is too late include high blood pressure, cholesterol level and the body mass index .

“These are people who are obese with a BMI above 25, which is 20 per cent or more of the population,” she said.

She recommended diets rich in vegetables, less fat, less sugar and salt, with a carbohydrates portion an equivalent of a folded palm size.

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NCDs are diseases that are not transmissible directly from one person to another such as most cancers, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

The Health ministry said currently NCDs contribute about 30 per cent of all annual hospital based deaths. 

In 2018 NCDs surpassed infectious diseases as the leading cause of deaths of people below 70 years.

To curb NCDs, Dr Gerald Mutungi, an assistant commissioner NCDs at the ministry, said among other interventions, they are creating a separate fully funded NCD department with two divisions; the lifestyle division and another for mental health to coordinate efforts geared towards NCD prevention.

Dr Mutungi, however, said currently NCDs are being managed with meagre departmental funds allocated from the entire health budget by Parliament.

“We do have a small departmental budget that we get annually of about Shs300 million to run NCD departmental activities,” Dr Mutungi revealed
He said the goal is to fully integrate NCD services into existing national health care services and reorient all health workers in NCD management. 

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According to the 2014 Uganda National NCD Risk Factor survey, 26.8 per cent of Ugandans were engaged in harmful alcohol consumption with about 10 per cent of Ugandans have alcohol-related disorders.

At least 10 per cent of Ugandans either smoked or were chewing tobacco and related substances and 24.3 per cent of adult Ugandans had high blood pressure that needed treatment and yet 76.1 per cent of these were not aware of their health condition.

Another 1.4 per cent of Ugandans were diabetic with the proportion up to three per cent in urban centres. Uganda is ranked 5th globally in alcohol consumption by volume.
 

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