A Professor of Public Health has urged the public to make conscious efforts to reduce the factors fuelling the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the country.
This is because the worrying levels of NCDs were often caused by some actions and inactions of those who suffer those diseases, hence the need for it to be a personal responsibility to keep it under control.
Speaking at the 2023 Joseph S. Agyepong Distinguished Lecture on Public Health in Africa in Accra last Wednesday, Professor Peter Lamptey said tackling NCDs must be the personal responsibility of the individual and not the health systems or medical professionals.
He added that Africa continued to have a high communicable or infectious disease burden that was a fast-growing burden of NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory diseases and mental health disorders, hence the urgent need to reduce the risk factors.
He mentioned some of the risk factors as tobacco use, high consumption of alcohol, harmful dietary practices and physical inactivity, stressing the importance for personal responsibility in prevention rather than relying on cure.
“We cannot rely on doctors or the health systems, the onus is on us,” he said.
The lecture, which was in collaboration with the Harvard University Center for African Studies, is the latest in a series of lectures to be organised by the University of Ghana as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations.
It was on the theme, “Combatting Non-Communicable Diseases: Africa’s Greatest Health Challenges.”
The lecture, which was chaired by the Director General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, also featured a panel discussion on the issues raised in Prof Lamptey’s lecture
Mr Agyepong pledged GH¢500,000 towards the advocacy efforts on NCD, which is currently being championed by the GHS.
Prof Lamptey, who is also the President of FHI 360, quoting World Health Organisation (WHO) data, said there were five major groups of NCDs that accounted for over 80 per cent of the 41 milion premature global NCD deaths per year .
The five major groups, he said included Cardiovascular diseases, also popularly referred to as heart disease and stroke (17.9 million), Cancers (9.3million), Chronic respiratory, diseases (4.1million), Diabetes (2 0million), Mental health disorders also known the “silent epidemic in Africa (8.0 million).
He explained that inadequate recognition of NCD burden such as lack of national and international support, poor NCD service infrastructure, reliance on physician & facility-based response as some of the challenges in the NCD response on the continent.
The FHI 360 President thus called for an urgent response from African governments and international donors to help tackle NCD on the continent.
The Programme Manager, NCD at the GHS, Dr Efua Commeh, said the GHS had established an NCD steering committee with both heath and non-health sector players and CSOs to ensure that the risk factors which fell outside the health factors were identified for policy decision.
She added that guidelines were being developed for health workers to build capacity to respond appropriately to NCD cases.
The National Organiser of Ghana Public Health Associations, James Mckeown Amoah called for a national policy on food composition in order to regulate salt and sugar intake.
From a social science perspective, a Senior Lecturer at the Regional Institute for Population Studies (RIPS), University of Ghana, Dr Fidelia Dake, stressed the need to create an environment that promoted healthy lifestyle.
A licensed Clinical Psychologist, academic and researcher at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Ghana Medical School, Dr Dzifa Abra Attah, called on the government and the GHS to be intentional about mental health screening.