Kenya's Silent Killers Responsible For 50% Hospital Admissions

A doctor checking a patient's blood pressure levels
A doctor checking a patient's blood pressure.

A recent report by the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) has revealed a growing health crisis in the country with Non-Communicable Diseases(NCDs) emerging as the culprits responsible for over 50 percent of hospital admissions and 39 percent of deaths.

According to the report, NCDs claim at least 41 million lives worldwide every year, 15 million of which are of people still in their prime(ages 30-69). 

These silent killers encompass a range of conditions including cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, cancers, chronic lung illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and mental health conditions. Of these cardiovascular diseases take the lead in NCD-related deaths.

"These NCDs share four risk factors that can be addressed through behaviour change which are often established during adolescence and carried to adulthood – unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, harmful use of alcohol, and tobacco use," AMREF's report read in parts.

A team of doctors at the Kenya University of Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) performing surgery in February, 2023
A team of doctors at the Kenya University of Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) performing surgery in February 2023

What's particularly concerning is the uneven distribution of these diseases within Kenya. A study by the National Institute of Health has revealed that some regions bear a heavier burden than others. 

For example, urban areas grapple with a higher prevalence of diabetes compared to rural areas. 

Similarly, Kwale County has witnessed a staggering 30 percent higher incidence of asthma, diabetes, and hypertension compared to Narok County's modest 3 percent.

While NCDs were once erroneously believed to affect only the affluent, harmful behavioral habits have seen a surge in cases among low and middle-income households. 

To make matters worse, AMREF projects that NCDs are on track to surpass communicable diseases, nutritional deficiencies, maternal, and perinatal deaths combined by 2030. 

Access to NCD medications is also becoming increasingly challenging, especially for low-income families lacking comprehensive health insurance. 

Moreover, these medications are not readily available with only about 51 per cent available at the county level which falls below the recommended World Health Organization minimum of 80 percent.

In response to this escalating crisis, AMREF advocates for a fundamental shift in household behaviors to significantly reduce the risk of these five debilitating diseases. 

Concurrently, the government has established the National Strategy for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2015-2020, proposing the integration of NCD interventions into existing primary healthcare initiatives, such as community health services, maternal and child health, school health, disease surveillance, and efforts against HIV, TB, and malaria.

A patient connected to a medical drip
A patient connected to a medical drip.


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