Addressing the growing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in Southern and East Africa

Since 2015, Amref Health Africa UK has been working in partnership with GSK to reduce Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) across sub-Saharan Africa, by giving communities the expertise and equipment they need to prevent, diagnose and treat these conditions.

Whilst typically sub-Saharan Africa is associated with epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and malaria; the World Health Organisation estimates that NCDs are now a major concern, with health issues such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension are likely to overtake infectious diseases by 2030. In 2015, NCDs were also included in the Sustainable Development Goals, under Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing at all ages.
In an increasingly connected world, where the effects of globalisation extend to even the most remote communities, Africa’s lower and middle class populations are now more likely to suffer with health conditions more often associated with the West, such as obesity, asthma and heart disease. The growing burden of NCDs is having a significant and profound effect on sub-Saharan Africa’s already stretched health systems, which have little resource or experience in treating the significant health risks. 
Amref Health Africa UK has begun innovative work to meet the need for effective and accessible NCD treatment and training. In 2015, we rolled out a specific NCD programme in Kenya. A year later, we expanded into South Africa and are now developing similar programmes in Namibia and Botswana.

Case study

South Africa suffers from a quadruple burden of disease. 
  • Maternal, Newborn and Child related deaths (2-3 times global average)
  • HIV/AIDS and TB (23 times the global average)
  • Non-Communicable Diseases (2-3 times average of developing countries)
  • Violence and injury (equating to 1.3% of global burden of injuries) 
In South Africa, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are responsible for approximately two out of five deaths.  To address the damaging impact this has on communities, Amref South Africa in partnership with Amref UK has implemented a three year project in the Gauteng and Limpopo Provinces.
This NCD project aims to develop skills for health workers so they are able to address, screen and manage obesity, hypertension and diabetes. It will also strengthen regional training centres in the two Provinces, build the capacity of health workers, raise awareness and improve knowledge of the related lifestyle risk factors.
Anne Khangale is 48 and lives with her husband and children in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, South Africa. For years, Anne dreamed of becoming a Community Health Worker, but couldn’t afford to study without the promise of a job.  
However, thanks to an Amref NCD learnership course, Anne’s fortunes changed. This course trains Community Health Workers on how to educate, care and make referrals for patients, with the intention that students will work in the community, educating and caring for those affected by NCDs and make referrals when their training is complete.
The course is implemented over a one year period, with the ambition of training 350 Community Health Workers in the first year.
Anne said: “I think I have set an example for people my age and younger that it is never too late to learn and contribute to your community”.  Anne’s husband is happy that she did not give up, and that the Amref course is helping her to achieve her dream and passion. Anne added:  “I am enjoying learning and the course has reached and surpassed all my expectations!”