By Dawda Nenegalleh Jallow
Although greater attention is put on communicable diseases in scholarly papers, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are posing a significant health burden globally with particular emphasis on low and middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs account for 34% of the total annual mortality in The Gambia and as the country grapples with the rising prevalence of NCDs, understanding their impact on both individual health and the national economy is of great importance.
NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, chronic respiratory conditions and now kidney problems are diseases that are not passed from person to person and are becoming increasingly prevalent in The Gambia. Unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and harmful alcohol consumption further exacerbate the problem. The Gambia’s health system is faced with the challenge of addressing the growing burden of diseases alongside existing infectious diseases.
These diseases have a profound impact on individual health as chronic conditions often require long-term management, including medications, regular medical check-ups, and lifestyle modifications. The burden of NCDs can lead to reduced quality of life, increased disability, and premature death. Individuals affected by NCDs may face financial strain due to healthcare costs, loss of productivity, and decreased ability to participate fully in the workforce and social activities.
The impact of these non-communicable diseases on the Gambian economy is substantial as the direct healthcare costs associated with the diagnosis, treatment, and management of these diseases place a significant burden on the already limited healthcare resources. As has been seen in recent times, a lot of young Gambians are suffering and/or dying from kidney-related diseases. These diseases can result in reduced work capacity, absenteeism, early retirement, and increased healthcare expenditures, leading to a decrease in overall productivity and economic growth.
Addressing the impact of these diseases requires a multi-faceted approach. Ministry of Health The Gambia needs comprehensive strategies that focus on prevention, early detection, and effective management of these diseases. Promoting healthy lifestyles, improving access to affordable healthcare services, implementing population-based interventions, and strengthening primary healthcare systems are essential steps in reducing the burden that these diseases have on us.
Looking at the trend, investing more in health promotion and disease prevention programs, such as public awareness campaigns, school-based education, and workplace wellness initiatives, can play a vital role in mitigating the impact of NCDs. These interventions, when effectively coordinated and properly managed, can raise the awareness of the Gambian population.
Although poverty affects many families across the country encouraging healthier dietary choices by growing what we eat and eating what we grow, promoting physical activity, and enforcing the Tobacco Control Act are key components of the prevention efforts. Moreover, strengthening healthcare infrastructure, training healthcare professionals, and improving access to affordable medications and technologies are critical in the effective management of these diseases.
For the longest time ever, anytime I write/speak about the health system of our beloved country, one question always rings into my ears: WHY ARE GAMBIANS DYING YOUNG?
Has this question ever crossed your mind? If it has, what do you think? If it hasn’t, please take some time to ponder over it.