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Experts gather to discuss best approaches for stifling growth of non-communicable diseases in Africa

March 30, 2017

As countries urbanize and economies modernize, greater numbers of Africans are adopting lifestyle changes that drive the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). By 2030, the World Health Organization (WHO) projects that NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease will be the most common cause of death in Africa.

To stem this growing epidemic, WHO recommends implementing cost-effective interventions  dubbed “best buys” to curb the four main risk factors of NCDs: tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, inadequate physical activity, and an unhealthy diet. However, the control of these risk factors requires collaboration from multiple sectors in a way that promotes a whole-of-government approach.

Since 2013, the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) has been examining existing policies to control NCD, specifically those that address the WHO best buys in Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and South Africa. The IDRC-supported project, Analysis of NCD Prevention Policy in Africa, aims to understand the challenges and opportunities for multi-sector action in the formulation and implementation of NCD policies.

To share the learning from the five countries involved in the study, APHRC and the East African NCD Alliance (EANCDA) convened a regional conference from January 25–27, 2017 in Nairobi. More than 100 experts, researchers, government officials, and decision-makers from diverse countries and organizations including WHO, Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Partners in Health (PIH), Aga Khan University, University of Nairobi, and Médecins sans Frontières Belgium gathered to explore opportunities for collaborative research to strengthen the evidence base for NCD policy development within the region.

Conference participants agreed that there is a need for improved data collection, analysis, and dissemination, and they developed a potential framework for future NCD working groups to drive the research priorities at the national, regional, and continental levels.