7,700 succumbed to ‘lifestyle diseases’ in 2016

By Paulina Ndalikokule

NAMIBIA is experiencing a growing burden of non-communicable diseases with an alarming number of Namibians dying from non-communicable diseases every year. This was said by the Health Ministry executive director Ben Nangombe in a speech read on his behalf at a media information sharing meeting in Windhoek recently.

Non communicable diseases, also known as lifestyle or chronic diseases, are diseases that are not transmissible directly from one person to another. NCDs include most heart disease, most cancers, diabetes, strokes, chronic respiratory diseases, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, cataracts, and others.

Nangombe cited the World Health Organisation, which reported that NCDs accounted for 41 percent of all deaths in Namibia in 2016. He said out of the 7,700 deaths, 17% of the total deaths were due to heart diseases, 5% due to cancers, 4% due to chronic respiratory diseases (especially asthma), 4% due to Diabetes Mellitus and 11% were ascribed to other causes.

Risk factors associated with some of these diseases include a person’s background, lifestyle and environment, which are factors known to increase the likelihood of certain non-communicable diseases.  Other contributory factors may include genetics, exposure to air pollution, and behaviour such as smoking, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, which can lead to hypertension and obesity.

The executive director said the biggest contributor to NCD in the country include the use of tobacco products and over-consumption of alcohol. “Research revealed that Namibians consume too much alcohol and they are not very active and they do not control what they eat,” Nangombe said.

Most NCDs are considered preventable because they are caused by modifiable risk factors. The executive director said education and prevention were some of the key weapons to fight against the lifestyle diseases and its risk factors.

“Media houses can continuously extend its information to members of the public to sensitise them on the importance of prevention strategies of lifestyle diseases, such as heart diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory such as asthma and diabetes mellitus,” Nangombe added.

Also speaking at the event, chief executive director of the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations (NANASO) Sandie Tjaronda said the Health Ministry and stakeholders were working to strengthen prevention strategies before the situation gets out of control.

“We really need to work together, everyone needs to be a part of making Namibia a better and healthier place. We need to put pressure on our health institutions to start selling more healthy food.”

WHO further indicates that globally NCDs kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. Each year, 15 million people die from an NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; over 85% of these premature deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

Cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9 million), respiratory diseases (3.9 million), and diabetes (1.6 million). These four groups of diseases account for over 80% of all premature NCD deaths.

Tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol and unhealthy diets all increase the risk of dying from a NCD. Detection, screening and treatment of NCDs, as well as palliative care, are key components of the response to NCDs. Members of the public are encouraged to regularly check up on their health, exercise and eat healthily.