Lack of Scientific Information Hindering Treatment of Chronic Diseases in Uganda

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Uganda does not have any current statistics on non-communicable diseases and is unable plan for their treatment or develop national policies to combat them.
Dr. James Sekajjugo, the National Coordinator of Non-Chronic Illnesses and the Ministry of Health, says there is no data on how many Ugandans have non-communicable diseases, what age groups they fall in or what diseases are most prevalent. It is not known what regions are most affected and there is no detailed national empirical evidence of the existence of the diseases.
Dr. Sekajjugo says that in order to deal with this information gap, the Ministry of Health will this year conduct a survey to establish prevalence rates and causes of illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, liver disease and hypertension.
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Most non-Communicable diseases have their origins at young age and can take decades to establish. They are closely linked to lifestyle choices and once acquired involve long term treatment and cost.
An international conference on non-communicable diseases, organized by the Aga Khan Foundation, is to be held in Kampala this week to discuss global strategies to deal with the problem.
According to the conference information, non-communicable diseases are responsible for 60% of global deaths from all causes worldwide. The rise in the disease is attributed to obesity and the spread of undesirable lifestyle behaviors that include unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and exposure to tobacco.
Dr. Silver Bahendeka, the national consultant on non-communicable diseases, says that in Uganda, alcohol consumption is one of the greatest contributors of heart-related illnesses. He explains that the consumption of more than 700 milliliters of alcohol a day has a serious impact on the health of the liver and heart and can lead to cirrhosis, high blood pressure and even heart failure.
Dr. Bahendeka says it has become common practice for Ugandans to consume copious amounts of alcohol, putting them at risk of a range of non-communicable disease.
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Dr. Bahendeka says Uganda needs to invest in training of people who can effectively communicate the dangers associated with unhealthy lifestyles and the increased risk of non-communicable disease.
In 2007 the Ministry of Health piloted a non-communicable disease prevention and control division in the districts of Arua, Kabale, Wakiso and Amuria. Diabetes clinics were established and diabetes associations were formed to educate people about the disease and to provide support for patients.
The World Health Organization says providing information about the causes of non-communicable diseases is the key to their prevention. It says about 40% of cancers and 80% of premature heart diseases, stoke and type 2 diabetes are preventable with lifestyle and diet changes.