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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Esha Homenauth -- A Student Perspective: Non-Communicable Diseases and Risk Behaviours in Developing Countries

An epidemiological transition linked to increases in urbanization, industrialization and globalization has resulted in the rise of Non-communicable diseases (NCD) globally (Aikins et al, 2010). Non-communicable diseases account for the major global public health challenges of the twentieth century. Overall disease burden associated with NCD is predicted to increase for middle and low income countries (WHO: The world report 2003). In Nigerian cities, the increase of motorized vehicles and sedentary occupations such as office work, parallels the increase in incidences of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers and other high risk dietary and life-style behaviours. Evidence surrounding the growing burden of NCD and the risk factors in Sub Saharan Africa has sparked public health intervention. However, because of the lack of data on health and economic burdens associated with NCD, effective actions have not been implemented to reduce their incidences.

The study by Ok et al. (2013) published in vol. 13 no. 1 of African Health Sciences carried out in a university community in the city of Ibadan, Oyo State, South Western Nigeria, aimed to provide evidence of NCD in the public by documenting the self-reported prevalence of selected NCD and associated risk behaviours. Results showed that an unhealthy diet was the major risk behaviour associated with NCD. The high prevalence of unhealthy diet is supported by other studies that indicate only 5% of developing countries were reported to consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables (Khatib O, 2004). 1 in 7 individuals reported at least one risk behaviour while 3 in 10 reported multiple risk behaviours. Additionally, hypertension was reported as the most prevalent NCD. This study agrees with previous findings that report diseases such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes as being caused by multiple risk behaviours (WHO: Global Burden of Disease, 2002).

The health system in developing countries will be unable to support the increase in disease burden if the present trend continues. The researchers highlight the need for intervention strategies targeted to recognize, prevent and reduce the risk behaviours associated with NCD. They also highlight the need for improved surveillance of NCD in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa such that non-communicable diseases are placed within the context of overall disease burden.

Non-communicable disease account for the leading cause of death in the developed world. Numerous studies highlight the incidence of NCD in western societies and indicate the need for early intervention. However, need for these interventions are also imperative for developing countries. From the perspective of a Health Studies student, this study provides relevant information regarding the burden of NCD and associated behaviours in developing countries. Developing countries are affected by both communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as aspects of poverty, inequality and inadequate resources. The health care system is therefore strained due to the overall burden of these diseases making it important to devise a solution that targets the root of the problem - unhealthy diets. Though the solution may or may not be different in western societies, providing a healthy diet may be the first step in an intervention strategy to limit the prevalence of NCD. Unlike developed countries, the incidence of NCD are poorly reported or documented in developing countries, resulting in the health care system allocating little to no resources for its prevention.

Bioline International functions to limit the knowledge gap between developing and developed countries. Providing open access to this article and others in this issue allow relevant information about overall disease burden associated with non-communicable diseases in developing countries to surface so that effective measures can be put in place to limit the increase in incidences.

OK, I., ET, O., OA, A.(2013) Non communicable disease and risky behaviour in an urban university community Nigeria. African Health Sciences 13(1): 62 - 67
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