Asian-African summit explores how to tackle rise in non-communicable diseases

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 09 February 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b547
  1. Henry Wasswa
  1. 1Kampala

    The incidence of non-communicable diseases, which are responsible for 60% of deaths worldwide, is growing rapidly in poor states in Africa and Asia, experts and policy makers have warned at an international health conference in Kampala.

    The worldwide number of people who are expected to die from chronic diseases will increase by about 17% in 20 years unless action is taken now, said delegates at the first Asian-Africa summit on chronic diseases.

    The two day conference, sponsored by the Aga Khan University and the World Health Organization, was attended by doctors, nurses, and policy makers mostly from African and Asian countries.

    “About 28 million Africans will die in the next 20 years of non-communicable diseases. We have brought experts to Kampala to understand the extent of the damage of these diseases. We will embark on training nurses and doctors to handle these diseases,” said Firoz Abdul Rasul, president of the Aga Khan University, an international university with bases in eight countries, including Pakistan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom.

    Jean Claude Mbanya, president of the International Diabetes Federation, told the BMJ at the summit that 10 million people in Africa currently had diabetes and that this would grow to 19 million by 2025 if nothing was done. Obesity and lack of physical activity were contributing to the problem, he said.

    Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, kidney and liver failure, hypertension, and stroke and related heart diseases were all increasing in incidence.

    “Chronic diseases are on the increase, killing people silently. We are sitting on a time bomb,” said James Sekajugo, of the Ugandan health ministry. He estimated that for every patient with diabetes in Uganda whose disease was recorded in a clinic another four remain untreated.

    Changes in diet and lifestyle caused by economic growth and urbanisation were responsible for the increase in disease, officials at the conference said.

    Bourima Hama Sambo, WHO’s regional adviser for Africa, told the conference that smoking was the leading cause of chronic disease.

    “In the year 2020, 20 million people will die of tobacco related diseases. WHO’s global goal is to prevent 36 million deaths by the reduction of salt [in the diet], tobacco control, and reducing non-communicable diseases in 25 low income countries,” Dr Sambo said.

    Delegates proposed a range of remedies, including well funded clinical research and data collection projects, training of specialised health personnel, and policy interventions such as banning smoking in certain places and strengthening regulatory bodies responsible for food.

    Delegates said that governments should draw up smoking control measures, including a ban on tobacco advertisements, on smoking in public places, and on selling of tobacco products to and by children.

    The next summit is scheduled to be held in India in 2011.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b547

    View Abstract