With the disease burden of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria expected to make up less than 15 percent of the total disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2030, and non-communicable diseases to account for nearly 40 percent of the total in the region, “[a] revision of the approach to research and health care in SSA is therefore urgently needed, but international donors and health communities have generally been slow to respond to the changing environment,” Ole Olesen and M. Iqbal Parker of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in South Africa write in a commentary in Tropical Medicine & International Health. “Private and public funding for health research in Africa remains therefore disproportionately focused on the three major infectious diseases, whereas only smaller amounts have been allocated to confront other diseases,” they write and provide examples.
Non Communicable Disease/Chronic Disease
More than 100 world leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, are meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this week for Rio+20, the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, to address ways to reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection. The following blog post, opinion piece, and press release address health aspects of the conference.
“Secretary Clinton’s inspiring piece on how the interests of the U.S. and India are aligned on issue after issue compelled me to articulate one more way in which the world’s two biggest democracies could pave the way for international co-operation. This is a remarkable opportunity for the U.S. and India to join together in addressing NCDs, chronic non-communicable diseases,” Nalini Saligram, founder and CEO of Aroyga World, writes in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ “Smart Global Health” blog. She describes several initiatives underway to curb NCDs, including the mDiabetes text-messaging program being implemented by Aroyga World in India. Both the U.S. and India “have the bold leadership and technology advances needed [to tackle NCDs], and both countries consider the pursuit of healthy living a worthy aspiration and believe fully in the power of innovation,” she states (6/15).
AllAfrica.com/Guardian examine efforts to prevent and treat cervical cancer among women in Kenya, where an estimated 3,400 women die of the disease each year and only five percent receive screening. “Kenya’s national reproductive health strategic plan has addressed cervical cancer largely through the roll-out of a low-cost screening tool known as VIA (visual inspection of the cervix using ascetic acid),” but experts agree that more widespread use of cervical cancer vaccines and public education campaigns about the disease would be more effective at preventing and catching cases earlier, the news service reports. “Once the public owns this problem and pushes for it, … then the government would be forced to implement [a vaccine] strategy in full,” Lucy Muchiri, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi, said, the news service notes (Njoroge, 6/12).
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer arm, on Tuesday announced it has reclassified diesel engine exhaust from “probably carcinogenic” to “carcinogenic,” the U.N. News Centre reports, noting the decision came “after a week-long meeting of international experts, and [the agency] based its decision on sufficient evidence that exposure is associated with an increased risk for lung cancer” (6/12). “IARC said large populations all over the world are exposed to diesel exhaust every day,” Reuters notes. “‘People are exposed not only to motor vehicle exhausts but also to exhausts from other diesel engines … (such as diesel trains and ships) and from power generators,’ it said,” according to the news service (Kelland, 6/12).
The Economist’s “Graphic Detail” blog features an infographic depicting the probability of dying from a non-communicable disease, by country. “You are more likely to be killed by a non-communicable disease (NCD), like cancer or heart disease, than anything else,” the blog notes, adding, “In 2008 they accounted for 63 percent of the 56 million deaths worldwide” (6/1).
In this Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, examines the global obesity epidemic, writing, “It may seem strange to be worried about too much food when the United Nations suggests that, as the planet’s population continues to expand, about one billion people may still be undernourished,” but “[g]rowing obesity in poorer countries is a sign of a historic global tipping point.” He continues, “After millennia when the biggest food-related threat to humanity was the risk of having too little, the 21st century is one where the fear is having too much.”
The June issue of the WHO Bulletin includes an editorial on the management of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries; a public health round-up; an article on anti-smoking measures and tobacco consumption in Turkey; and a research paper on mortality in women in Burkina Faso in the years following obstetric complications (June 2012).
IRIN examines the next steps in fighting non-communicable diseases (NCDs), “the leading cause of death worldwide,” noting, “The World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), aims to reduce preventable deaths from [NCDs] like diabetes, heart attacks and strokes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers, by 25 percent by 2025.” According to IRIN, “WHO is coordinating negotiations on the surveillance, indicators and voluntary targets that will form an eventual global plan to fight NCDs, and is drafting recommendations to be considered by member governments in October 2012.” IRIN provides a link to a WHO summary of “recent discussions [.pdf] with civil society and government representatives on the best ways to rein in NCDs, and how to measure progress.”
“By the end of the 21st century, more than one billion people are expected to die from illnesses related to tobacco use primarily in low to middle income countries,” Amie Newman, communications officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and editor of the foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, writes in this blog post in recognition of World No Tobacco Day. “We’ll continue to support efforts which reduce the number of deaths and diseases due to tobacco use — especially in developing countries,” she adds (5/31). An AIDS.gov blog post addresses tobacco use by people living with HIV, writing, “Smoking rates of people living with HIV are estimated to be two to three times higher than the national average, and smoking weakens the immune system, making it harder to fight off HIV-related infections” (5/31).