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.

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