The prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is increasing across sub-Saharan Africa, placing a substantial load on the region’s already inadequate health systems. The high burden of infectious diseases and the rising burden of non-communicable diseases have significantly strained Kenya’s health system. Given their chronic nature and high cost of care, NCDs have a considerable economic impact on households, communities, and nations in addition to their negative effects on health.
A non-communicable disease is a chronic, non-infectious medical condition. Cancers, cardiovascular disorders, chronic respiratory illnesses, diabetes, mental health conditions, and other injuries that result in lasting harm are examples of non-communicable diseases. According to WHO, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol are major risk factors for NCDs.
Approximately 71% of deaths due to NCDs occur in low- and middle-income countries such as Kenya. This is due to the fact that these countries lack adequate infrastructure, financial resources, and skilled human resources to manage their health systems effectively. In Kenya, NCDs are responsible for 39% of the deaths that occur annually. The rising incidence of NCDs has been attributed to changing lifestyles and diets. The Kenyan government has taken a number of steps to address the rising burden of NCDs; in 2021, it launched a five-year National Strategic Plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. The plan provides an overview of the major causes and risk factors of NCDs in Kenya, as well as their implications for the country’s development. The plan also outlines strategies to address these issues, including setting up surveillance systems and making sure that people have access to health care services.
The plan is based on key areas that include: the promotion of healthy lifestyles and diets, the reduction of tobacco use, the control of harmful use of alcohol, and the reduction in exposure to environmental risk factors. The program also aims to raise awareness among policymakers and communities about NCDs and outlines the need to improve access to healthcare services and strengthen health systems which can be achieved through implementing new technologies across all levels of the health sector.
The World Health Organization has also developed a Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs, which aims to promote healthy lifestyles, reduce risk factors and strengthen health systems.
The African Institute for Health and Development (AIHD), IntellISOFT Consulting, Malteser International (MI), and the Nairobi City County Health Services Department have collaborated to implement a Non-Communicable Diseases Quality Management Electronic Medical System (Nairobi County NCD QM EMS) technology to increase the ability of healthcare professionals to adhere to clinical guidelines set by the Ministry of Health in the management of hypertension (HTN) and Diabetes Mellitus (DM). It offers clinical decision support to clinicians, helping them adhere to these clinical guidelines.
Developed from 2018, the system has been launched for use by clinicians in four sub counties in Nairobi County and is in use in 45 healthcare facilities. The system has unique features which include reminding patients about their upcoming appointments and flagging defaulters. It auto-generates real-time reports which are uploaded on the Kenya Health Information System (KHIS). This data informs decision making and commodity purchase at a facility. Additionally, the system ensures security and confidentiality of patient data which is enforced through role-based access. The NCD QM EMS systems can be accessed through an online web-based platform or through an offline application.
It will be much easier to reduce the burden of noncommunicable diseases if our health systems are strengthened and if we develop strategic measures for the prevention and control of these diseases in order to reduce their prevalence.