Prof. Irene Agyepong
Prof. Irene Agyepong (left), Faculty Chair, Faulty of Public Health at Ghana College of Physician and Surgeon, briefing the press. With him is Prof. Tolib Mirzoev , London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
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Non-communicable diseases rising in West Africa - Research

Research conducted by West African health institutions has revealed a rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension, and cancers within the region.

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The research, conducted under a project dubbed: "STOP-NCD" was aimd at contributing to improved health of West African populations through comprehensive and sustainable capacity strengthening for high-quality applied NCD research to improve prevention, diagnosis and management and involves, Ghana, Niger and Burkina Faso.

It was conducted by the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS), Ashesi University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Research Partner Institutions- LASDEL and Catholic University of West Africa/University Unit of Bobo (UCAO-UUB).

NCDs can be reduced with timely and effective primary healthcare interventions.

The findings of the research was presented at a forum held at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons in Accra on Thursday, March 21, 2024. 

The research was funded by the Global Health Research Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases Control in West Africa (NIHR).

NCDs

Speaking at the event, the Faculty Chair, Faculty of Public Health at GCPS, Professor Irene Agyepong emphasised the region's neglect of NCDs due to focus on malaria and TB.

Discussing findings from Ghana, Niger, and Burkina Faso, particularly on diabetes, hypertension, and mental disorders, she highlighted how factors beyond the healthcare system, including infrastructure and traditional disease orientation had impacted the issue. 

She noted that access to healthcare facilities was hindered by factors including road quality and transportation networks, particularly affecting remote communities. 

“... because of the traditional orientation to communicable diseases like malaria, etc many health workers have not really been oriented to provide primary care for hypertension, diabetes, mental health, the way it happens”, she stated.

This perception, she stressed, leads to challenges in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, as individuals seek quick cures instead of long-term treatment, resulting in undesirable outcomes.

Way Forward

In addressing solutions to tackle the issue, Prof. Agyepong expressed the institution's intention to collaborate with various stakeholders including communities, patients, policymakers, and the media to determine feasible actions and initiatives.

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