What you need to know:
The motion urges government to provide free medicines to Ugandans suffering from diabetes, hypertension and by extension, all non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
Rarely do Members of Parliament on both sides of the political aisle speak in one accord on the floor of Parliament. However, on October 21, a critical motion was passed with no objection from Members of both the Opposition and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The motion urges government to provide free medicines to Ugandans suffering from diabetes, hypertension and by extension, all non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
NCDs are defined as diseases that are not transmitted from one person to another (not infectious). They are chronic in nature, have long-term effects on the human body which may result from a combination of behavioural, genetic, environmental and physiological factors.
According to the 2014 Uganda NCDs Survey, out of 100 annual deaths in Uganda, 33 are linked to the five leading NCDs: cancers, diabetes, heart-related disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and mental health. These statistics are expected to increase in the coming years.
For the last four financial years, government of Uganda has provided approximately Shs2b for the management of NCDs annually. This money is released together with the disbursement for essential medicines to National Medical Stores (NMS) to provide free medicines for NCDs across the country.
In total, NMS delivers up to 50 different types of NCD medicines to government health facilities.
Whereas NMS delivers medicines for NCDs in line with the available budget, the prevalence of these diseases is rapidly increasing and is expected to grow in the coming years.
The current funding for NCDs albeit commendable, pales in comparison to the growing needs associated with management of NCDs in the country.
A growth in NCD cases without a corresponding increase in NCD funding inadvertently widens the funding gap.
A National Annual Needs Analysis and Quantification Report for Public Health Facilities in Uganda published by Health ministry in April 2020, indicates that the available budget (Shs2b) for NCDs only accounts for 15 percent of the total need, leaving an 85 percent (Shs11b) funding gap in Financial Year 2020/2021.
So how do we minimise the economic impact of NCDs? Research by the World Health Organisation indicates that NCDs are exacerbated by harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Indeed, data from the Ministry of Health indicates that 75 percent of all the diseases in Uganda are preventable, which means that of the 100 patients in hospitals, 75 would not be there if they had prevented the root causes of the disease they are suffering from.
We can reduce NCDs by, first and foremost, emphasising prevention, including regular checkups for early detection to assist effective treatment.
Increasing funding for NCDs without sensitising the masses about preventive health is like filling a bottomless pit.
Local and national leaders must urgently take centre stage in sensitising Ugandans through consistent preventive health campaigns as a precautionary measure against chronic illnesses.
We trust the legislators to follow up with adequate budgetary allocation not just to NCDs, but all essential medicines.
Ms Nduhukire is the principal public relations officer of National Medical Stores (NMS).