Okowa, Iwu, Ujah, others task researchers on disease prevention, control strategy



Delta State governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, has urged researchers in the country to come up with new strategies for the prevention, care and management of both communicable and non-communicable diseases in the country.

Okowa, at the opening of the sixth annual conference of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos, on Tuesday said that new approaches were important as well as urgent to halt the ravaging effect of these diseases.

The governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Nicholas Azinge, said that the theme of the conference: “Ending the communicable and non-communicable disease divide in Nigeria” could not have come at a better time, given the rate at which diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and obesity are fast becoming a plague in the country.

Citing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) report, Okowa noted that about 36 million persons die yearly from NCDs, a number that is estimated to rise by 17 – 21 per cent within the next decade.

He added that it has also been documented that if the primary risk factors – high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, tobacco use, alcohol consumption and overweight – were eliminated, 80 per cent of the cases of heart disease, stroke and Type two diabetes and 40 per cent of cancers can be prevented.

“In Delta States, in 2011, the number of cases of NCDs was 3,040. As at September 2015, the number dropped to 2,143 cases resulting in eight per cent in the number of reported cases in the state based on the statistics from the monthly Delta State Integrated Disease Surveillance Report. This, therefore, underscores the need for more population approach interventions such as mass screening in order to improve the health indices in the state,” he said.

Okowa, who was the former chairman of the Senate’s House Committee on the Health, noted that the burden of NCDs in the developing countries has been showing progressive increase over the past few decades with an estimated 80 per cent of the four main types of NCDs – cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – now occurring in low and middle-income countries. If the present trend is maintained by 2020, NCDs will contribute to seven out of every 10 deaths in developing countries, killing 52 million people annually by 2030.

While he recognized some efforts that had been taken to combat the problem, the governor advocated strategies that are integrative in nature to address both communicable and non-communicable disease.

“For example, at the primary health care level, maternal and child health programmes could include combined interventions to alleviate malnutrition and reduce smoking in pregnant women, increase the uptake of breastfeeding, monitor birth weight, promote healthy nutrition in families, identify and manage hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy and promote smoke-free homes.

“I expect this conference to address such vital areas as the impact of maternal morbidities on the growing burden of NCDs, the interplay of environment, poverty and nutrition in the onset of communicable disease and NCDs, integrating laboratory services for quality diagnosis and management of both class of disease, as well strengthening health systems for effective response to disease epidemics,” he said.

Chief host of the conference and Director General of NIMR, Prof. Innocent Ujah said that institutions and policies that support prevention and control of these two overarching disease categories in Nigeria reflect a partitioning, with communicable and NCDs programmes and initiatives having limited interactions and alignment.

Ujah said this is despite the fact that both disease categories share common features, such as long-term care needs and overlapping high-risk populations. There are also notable direct interactions, such as the association between certain communicable diseases and cancers, as well as evidence of increased susceptibility to communicable diseases in individuals with NCDs.

“As a foremost research institution in Nigeria, we are to set the pace in hea lth research. We have therefore, chosen this theme to stimulate discussions and generate these health issues that confront our country today,” he said.

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