By Amleset Tewodros
HelpAge International and Pfizer Inc are launching a two-year programme to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among older people in Tanzania. The programme will support the Government of Tanzania's efforts to provide appropriate health services to older people. (c) Paul Ong/HelpAge International
Non-communicable diseases include a range of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as Alzheimer's and other dementias.
They are commonly thought of as "diseases of affluence". But in reality, four-fifths of deaths from NCDs are in low- and middle-income countries and older people in developing countries are particularly at risk.
Impact of non-communicable diseases is growing in Africa
Predictions by the World Health Organization indicate that non-communicable diseases will account for seven out of ten deaths by 2020. The largest increases in NCD deaths will occur in Africa. Studies in Tanzania also show that NCDs account for nearly 60% of deaths of those aged 61 and older in some districts.
The project will be launched in June 2013 and will comprise a number of activities, including:
- piloting a range of community-based activities aimed at promoting the prevention and management of NCDs by practicing healthy lifestyles
- working with health providers at local and national levels to improve prevention, early diagnosis, follow-up and treatment of NCDs
- improving data collection and analysis to inform appropriate policies.
Community-based activities will be carried out in Morogoro, Kibaha and Songea districts in collaboration with organisations of older people. Meanwhile, support to improve health information management will be undertaken together with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Research shows the scale of the issue
This new programme will tackle an issue we revealed in a recent survey of civil society organisations working with older people that we conducted in 42 countries. The outcomes highlighted the extent of the work needed to provide adequate information and screening for hypertension, a non-communicable disease that affects more than one in three adults worldwide.
Indeed, our recent campaign Age Demands Action on Health, which took place in over 20 countries on World Health Day, brought together doctors, nurses and campaigners to raise awareness of and screen for high blood pressure.
As well as our work to improve the health of older Tanzanians, we work on many other areas to support older people in Tanzania. These include:
- pushing for non-contributory pensions
- working with human rights organisations to challenge harmful beliefs and traditions that lead to the killing of older women
- making sure older people are part of all HIV and AIDS treatment programmes and services.