Tanzania, WHO step up efforts to fight NCDs

TANZANIA, through support from the World Health Organisation (WHO), is set to conduct National Step Survey 2023 regarding risk factors of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country.

The development comes as the diseases are reported to be on the rise, not only in Tanzania but also in other parts of the world at large.

“This situation demonstrates that if NCDs are not controlled, they can cause a significant increase in deaths in the country,” she said.

According to WHO, NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 74 per cent of all deaths globally. Of all NCD deaths, 77 per cent are in low- and middle-income countries.

To facilitate the survey, WHO is expected to dish out 855m/- for the study that is expected to kick off early next month across the country.

Speaking in Dodoma on Friday at launching of the project that was graced by Zanzibar Minister for Health, Mr Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) Director General, Professor Said Abood, said the funds will help to complete the survey in both Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar.

“National Step Survey is the surveillance of risk factors for NCDs, in order to collect important data on the diseases.This survey will provide important information on health status of the community, areas of improvement and consequently set up improvement strategies to strengthen public health,” Prof Abood said.

He noted that data are central in building a healthy nation and that the information that will be collected through the survey will be used to as guidance in preparing strategies with evidence in order to improve the health of Tanzanians.

“The information will help to understand the risk factors of NCDs, such as poor eating habits, lack of physical exercise and excessive alcohol use and can help to come up with techniques to deal with such risk factors,” he said.

On his part, Dr Mazrui said that the survey will be conducted by the Tanzania National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), starting next month (August), involving Tanzanians at the age of 18 to 69. The last step survey was conducted in 2011 and 2012 in Zanzibar and Mainland.

He said that according to WHO global statistics for the year 2020, 41 million deaths were linked to NDCs, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths, while 57 million died of the complications in 2016.

The minister explained that in Tanzania, statistics collected in hospitals and other health facilities show NCDs account for 33 per cent of all deaths annually and that most of the adults who visit health centres have high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart complications.

“I appeal to all people and institutions to cooperate during the implementation of the research, because we need to understand the magnitude of the problem for proper interventions, including prevention by promoting observing health precautions,” Mr Mazrui said.

WHO Country Office Technical Lead for NCDs Programme, Dr Alphoncina Nanai, said NCDs have started causing a huge burden in the world. Dr Nanai said in every 10 deaths, seven of them are due to NCDs globally and as of 17 million people who die, 86 per cent of the deaths occur in African countries.

According to Dr Nanai, NCDs can be prevented, that is why the government started screening procedures in order to establish magnitude of the problem.

Tabling the 2023/2024 budget estimates for her docket, in the august House, the Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu stated that from July 2022 to March 2023, NCDs that caused many patients to attend health care centres included high blood pressure (890,788 patients, or 3.8 per cent), compared to 3.6 per cent in the same period in 2021/22 and diabetes (436,232 patients, or 1.8 per cent).

She went on to say that heart disease caused 1,388 deaths, or 6.0 per cent of all deaths, compared to 5.4 per cent of deaths caused by the condition in the same period in 2021/22.

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