Global statistics on Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) infection continue to dominate discussions on public health. Today nearly 41 million people around the world [i] die from NCDs (conditions that are not mainly caused by an acute infection but result in long-term health consequences and often create a need for long-term treatment and care.)
The study also indicates that three-quarters of these deaths are to a large extent, endemic in low and middle-income countries. It is in light of this that the United Nations (UN) initiated plans to reduce NCD by 25% by 2025 to assuage the impact. [ii]
It appears, in Ghana, NCDs like Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs), cancer, diabetes, Arthritis, etc, are significant contributors to Ghana’s disease burden. In Ghana, CVDs are responsible for 18,000 deaths annually[iii] . Even more alarming yet with very little attention, is the upsurge of dyslipidemia; a chronic risk factor of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD), caused by abnormal cholesterol or lipids in the blood. Increased levels of bad cholesterol (LDL-C), lead to them becoming deposited in the walls of blood vessels where they can slowly begin to block blood flow through the arteries to the vital organs such as the heart and brain. If this happens, one is said to have ASCVD. [iv] Dyslipidemia (high levels of lipids) does not show symptoms. Such that more people are dying silently, leaving many households socio-economically affected by the high cost of healthcare treatment, loss of breadwinners and daily livelihood.[i]
A recently held summit organized by Novartis had health professionals highlighting the need for a comprehensive approach to tackle dyslipidemia in Ghana. Specialists at the summit warned that the total rate of NCDs is set to topple other diseases as the leading cause of mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
Dr. Philip Amoo, a Public Health Physician Specialist, indicated that apart from its health risks, ASCVD impacts families emotionally and financially, affecting economic productivity invariably. “75% of all human deaths annually are linked to Non-Communicable Diseases of which cardiovascular disease remains a major contributor. Other than the economic burdens on families, productivity at work is halted leading to loss of manhours.”
The experts further advised that people who check their cholesterol levels can lower the risk of developing ASCVD and ultimately strokes and heart attacks by knowing their lipid level and taking steps to control it if elevated
Novartis Ghana is engaging stakeholders in the cardiovascular health community to chart a way forward for CVD screening, monitoring, and treatment in Ghana. The focus of Novartis is to motivate key players to act to secure better health outcomes for people living with ASCVD, including redefining how stakeholders in the health sector can work together to reverse the devastating health and financial consequences of this silent but deadly disease.
A major fallout from the panel discussion focused on how stakeholders, including the public sector, can leverage strategies to drive access to treatments by increasing advocacy to target patients suffering from dyslipidemia. Data collection, health system strengthening, and awareness programs are ways to curb the toll the condition has on the country's economic growth.
A panelist at the summit, Dr. Abdul-Samed Tanko, a Cardiologist, stressed that advocacy is necessary to achieve this. “The country is not experiencing a type of Dyslipidemia whose risk factor is genetically induced largely because not much-targeted screening is being done. If that is resolved, we can get more data to feed into a registry localized for health interventions to cover all these groups.”
Patients like Patience Binim, an educationist, have joined calls for strengthened efforts towards how ASCVD is approached, and patients supported. “There should be more organizations educating patients on prevention and advocacy, going to communities, and targeting people. I have heard the name (Dyslipidemia) but I didn't know much about it until the doctors told me”.
Collaborative partnerships are important to lessen the burden of ASCVD. It is why stakeholders like Novartis and other leading agencies are investing in solutions that reduce morbidity, and mortality by advocating for solutions to drive innovative access to treatments. The Global Health company aspires to be the partner of choice for governments and NGOs to strengthen healthcare systems across Africa.
“We are deeply committed to improving access to health care and medicines for patients not only in West Africa but across SSA. Already, our ongoing collaborative efforts with likeminded organizations have seen us delivering on our ambitions which we hope will bring real impact to a significant number of patients.” This, the Country Head Mr. Philip Tagboto says, has led to discussions with key experts.
This is just one example of how Novartis is working with thought leaders, medical societies, health authorities, and NGOs across SSA to highlight the urgency and address this silent killer. The time for action is now and committed multi-sectoral collaboration on awareness, screenings, and treatment is key.
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