You might not be surprised to hear that more than 200,000 women die each year giving birth in sub-Saharan Africa and that the toll of infectious diseases is still intolerably high in that region of the world. What you might not realize is that 400,000 sub-Saharan Africans die from cancer and nearly two million from cardiovascular disease–and the burden of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a growing problem. Among sub-Saharan Africa countries, Sierra Leone has both the highest proportion of active tuberculosis cases and the sixth highest death rate for cardiovascular disease (age-standardized). In Ethiopia, about the same number of people die from cancer as from malaria each year.
Risk factors for NCDs, such as smoking and obesity, are increasing in low- and middle-income countries in Africa. There, people who become ill with cancer or diabetes become sicker and die more quickly than in high-income countries. Health care providers are not always trained to deal with these chronic conditions. Even when practitioners have the knowledge to address these diseases, resources such as hospital beds, medications, and tests–both for diagnosis and monitoring–are lacking.
Next June, the Global Health Council’s 38th Annual Conference on Global Health will focus on how to address the burden of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries. This will be followed in September by the United Nations General Assembly NCD Summit. Hopefully, the awareness gained from these meetings will lead to new NCD prevention and treatment strategies, as well as increased resources to improve health systems in sub-Saharan Africa.
World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Population Fund, The World Bank. Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008. 2010 [cited 24 Nov 2010]. Available from: http://www.childinfo.org/files/Trends_in_Maternal_Mortality_1990_to_2008.pdf
World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer. GLOBOCAN 2008: Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide in 2008.2010 [cited 25 Nov 2010]. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr/
World Health Organization. The global burden of disease:2004 update. 2008 [cited 25 Nov 2010]. Available from: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/2004_report_update/en/index.html
World Health Organization. Global tuberculosis control 2010. 2010 [cited 24 Nov 2010]. Available from http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/2010/en/
World Health Organization. World Malaria Report 2008. 2008 [cited 24 Nov 2010]. Available from: http://www.who.int/malaria/publications/atoz/9789241563697/en/index.html