Conditions such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and cancers in the cluster of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been identified among the top four causes of mortality in the country.
In recent times, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) says there has been a sharp increase in the prevalence of NCDs among people between the ages of 40 and 60 in the country.
It is estimated that 34 per cent of deaths and 31 per cent of disease burden in the country are due to NCDs.
An estimated 86,200 persons die annually, with nearly 55.5 per cent of the dead being less than 70 years and 58 per cent being males.
According to statistics available to the GHS, the NCDs death rate in the country stood at 817 per 100,000 for males and 595 per 100,000 for females.
The Director in Charge of Health Promotion at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Dacosta Aboagye, said NCDs were largely lifestyle diseases and so living healthy lifestyles would reduce one’s vulnerabilities.
Dr Aboagye mentioned the risk factors of NCDs to include unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, use of tobacco, second-hand smoking and excessive drinking of alcohol and ageing.
He said NCDs were no respecter of persons and the conditions which often affected elderly people had recently been reported among very young persons who were 27 and below.
“NCDs are no respecter of persons. They can affect people of all age groups, regions and countries. These conditions are often associated with older age groups but evidence shows that 15 million of all deaths attributed to NCDs occur between the ages of 30 and 69 years.
“Unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity may show up in people as raised blood pressure, increased blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity. These are called metabolic risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease, the leading NCD in terms of premature deaths.
“Of these premature deaths, over 85 per cent are estimated to occur in low- and middle-income countries. Children, adults and the elderly are all vulnerable to the risk factors contributing to NCDs, whether from unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and exposure to tobacco smoke or the harmful use of alcohol,” he said.
Dr Aboagye added that further to behavioural risks, environmental and socio-economic factors such as air pollution, climate change, trade agreements and aggressive marketing of unhealthy products were accelerating the NCD epidemic.
He said those factors contributed to increasing risk, morbidity and mortality, thus making chronic diseases constitute a public health and a developmental problem that should be of urgent concern of all, not only to the Ministry of Health and GHS.
Dr Aboagye said NCDs were non-infectious health conditions, meaning it could not be spread from person to person.
He said they were either chronic or acute and could not be treated but managed with medicine effectively.
“The four main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
“NDCs also last for a long period of time. This is also known as a chronic disease. A combination of genetic, physiological, lifestyle and environmental factors can cause these diseases. While these diseases are incurable, they can be managed with medical treatment and in many cases, preventable through adherence to healthy lifestyle,” he said.
He said the high prevalence could be attributed to low education and so the GHS and its partners were prioritising public education on NCDs.
Dr Aboagye said it was critical for people to understand the nature of those diseases so that they could make informed choices to improve on their health.
The 2030 United Nation’s Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted at the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2015 recognises NCDs as a major challenge for sustainable development.
As part of the agenda, heads of state and government committed, as part of delivering on SGD goal three, which advocates good health and well-being, to: reduce by one third premature mortality from NCDs, strengthen responses to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The UN member states also made a commitment to support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for NCDs that primarily affected developing countries and to provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines for NCDs.