Preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases among older people in Tanzania
Pfizer Inc. and HelpAge International in Tanzania held an event last week to launch a programme which will prevent and control non-communicable diseases (for example diabetes and hypertension) among older people in Tanzania.
Non-communicable diseases or NCDs are a growing threat. They are the cause of 60% of all deaths in the world and 80% of these, or 38 million, are in people from low- and middle-income countries. This project is an opportunity for HelpAge and Pfizer Inc. to increase the global profile of this issue.
The event took place on 4 June in Dar es Salaam, with 61 participants from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW). There were four heads of departments from the Ministry of Health including the focal person for geriatric healthcare, Dr Edwin M. Ngongo.
Improving national health
Other participants included people with an interest in population and health policy, programming and research from WHO, UNAIDS, UNFPA, research and academic institutions and the media, as well as international NGOs, our partners in Tanzania and donor agencies. Pfizer was represented by Chris Gray, Senior Director of Global Institutions and Thuli Mtshali, Senior Program Manager of Corporate Responsibility. HelpAge had representatives from it offices in the US, UK, Nairobi and the Tanzania country office.
At the event there were speeches from Pfizer, HelpAge USA and HelpAge International. The key note speech was given by the Commissioner of Social Welfare on behalf of the Minister of Health and emphasised the importance of our work in improving national health.
In his speech, Chris Gray stated that Pfizer's mission to prevent and treat illnesses through science and improve health at every stage of life was the fundamental reason for their involvement in this programme. He explained why the emphasis was given to older people and NCDs, as they were issues that had been overlooked.
Huge prevalence of NCDs in Tanzania
A presentation made by the Medical Officer from the Morogoro Regional Hospital highlighted the prevalence of NCDs in Tanzania and how the programme being launched would increase awareness, improve skills, data and influences policies was shared. This was followed by a lively question and answer session which raised issues around how evidence-based the project design had been and whether dealing with NCDs within older people was the right approach.
We responded by acknowledging that NCDs have to be dealt with through a life course approach, because prevention, health promotion and education activities are needed to prepare entire societies for healthy ageing and are not just reserved for people when they reach old age.
We also spoke about the need to generate better evidence from our health programmes, in order to inform the basis for the next phases of programme design. We invited UN agencies and academic institutions to partner with us to undertake robust needs assessments, impact evaluations and project design together.
While we are strong at programme delivery on the ground, we need to work in partnership to execute evaluative activities to the highest standards of rigour. This will ensure the programme is as successful as possible.