By Juliet Nalwooga
African health ministers have endorsed a new strategy to boost access to the diagnosis, treatment and care of severe non communicable diseases.
The new strategy known as PEN-PLUS comes in the wake of the rising burden of cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological disorder and diabetes on the continent.
The strategy was adopted by the health ministers who were gathering for the seventy-second session of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo.
Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa says Africa is grappling with an increasingly hefty burden of chronic diseases whose severe forms are costing precious lives that could be saved with early diagnosis and care.
She adds that the plan will be implemented as a regional strategy to address severe noncommunicable diseases at first-level referral health facilities.
The strategy supports building the capacity of district hospitals and other first-level referral facilities to diagnose and manage severe noncommunicable diseases.
Severe noncommunicable diseases are chronic conditions that lead to high levels of disability and death among children, adolescents and young adults.
In the worst cases, patients live no longer than a year after diagnosis. In Africa, the most prevalent severe noncommunicable diseases include sickle cell disease, type 1 and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, severe hypertension and moderate to severe and persistent