The incidence and deaths from Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is rising rapidly and is to blame for a double burden of disease that is straining the health system in Kenya, a senior government official has said.
The official observed that NCDs contributes to over 50 percent of inpatient admissions and 27 percent of deaths in hospitals.
“The diseases associated with NCDs are causing substantial financial burden and pushing people to poverty,” Cabinet Secretary for Dr. Cleopa Mailu said on recently while launching the first Stepwise survey to establish the magnitude of NCDs disease risk factors in Kenya.
Mailu attributed the increase to rapid urbanization, adoption of unhealthy lifestyles, consumption of unhealthy diets, insufficient physical activity and the harmful use of alcohol.
According to the survey, cancer is the second leading cause of NCD related deaths after cardiovascular diseases and accounts for seven percent of deaths nationally.
The number of new cancer cases is close to 37,000 yearly with a death toll of 28,000 deaths with breast, cervical and esophagus being the leading.
It found that most Kenyans has never have their blood pressure measured and that only 11 percent of women in the country have had cervical cancer screening.
The survey found out that 13 percent of Kenyan adults currently consume tobacco products while 21 percent are exposed to second hand smoking while at work.
Mailu directed the Division of Environmental Heath to enforce the provisions of smoke free spaces as provided in the Tobacco Control Act 2007.
“It is disturbing to learn that people continue to smoke at work places yet there has been an act that allocated smoking zones in all urban centers,” Mailu noted.
The survey revealed that one out of 5 people were exposed to tobacco smoke at work place while one out of five were exposed to the smoke at home.
The survey revealed that only 94 percent of Kenyans do not adhere to the World Health Organization (WHO) dietary guidelines that promote the consumption of at least five or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
Mailu revealed that more effort is going to be put towards awareness creation, community engagement and capacity building for prevention, screening and early diagnosis.
“We are currently implementing the Managed Equipment Service project which is expected to contribute to improved infrastructure in 94 county hospitals,” he said.
He added that the project will also enhance capacity to diagnose and mange many NCDs within the public health facilities.
“We are also reviewing the Kenya Essential Medicines list to include priority medicines to guide service provision at all level of health care system,” Mailu revealed.
He said that the government has embraced public partnership arrangements with leading pharmaceutical firms to avail medicines for common NCDs at subsidized rates. The government is also considering expanding the outpatient cover to include NCDs which will address the barriers to health care access as a result of high out of pocket health expenditures.
A leading Kenyan cardiologist Professor Elijah Ogolla observed that the government now has to design interventions to help reduce the increase of the diseases since some conditions can be managed.
“The NCDs are likely to be major killers by the year 2025 if not checked,” Professor Ogolla noted.
He noted that tobacco and alcohol are not diseases but cause illnesses that later on kill consumers, adding that consumers must start quitting the habit to live longer.
“People must start screening early and also change their eating habit by eating as per the WHO recommendations,” he added.
The survey found out that 23.2 percent of Kenyans always add salt often before eating or when eating and a further admitted to always consuming food high in salt. 28 percent of Kenyans always add sugar to beverages and 59.1 percent use vegetable oil.
The survey called for the establishment of physical activity tool kits in the country to encourage adoption of active lifestyles and to reduce sedentary lifestyles since only 6.5 percent of Kenyans do not engage in recommended physical activity.
The survey found that a quarter of Kenyan adults are hypertensive and that among this group, 92 percent are not currently on medication.
In Kenya, the survey found that 88 percent of people do not always wear seat belts while 94 percent of cyclists do not put on helmets while riding on motorcycles.
The 2015 Kenya Stepwise survey is the first comprehensive nationally representative survey designed to establish the magnitude of the major behavioral and biological risk factors for NCDs as well as the magnitude of unintentional injuries and oral disease in Kenya which have an equally high burden.