By Fidel Amakye Owusu

1. Last Friday was World Health Day. The theme for this year was “health for all”. The date for the yearly event was chosen for its significance as the founding date of the World Health Organisation in 1948.

2. Admittedly, when the important organisation was founded, most sub—Saharan African states were not sovereign. However, the region has received significant attention since the attainment of independence and even before.

3. Generally, and over the past decades, Africa’s health needs have centred around malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS; the six killer childhood diseases; and what has been called the “neglected tropical diseases”.

4. Health systems across the region have therefore been built and supported to tackle these over the years. Donor partners have made immense contributions in this direction. The HIV/AIDS epidemic was particularly devastating for the region, especially, Southern and Central Africa.

5. The focus of health services has been on three main areas: access, affordability and quality. Access has meant building health facilities, especially in deprived and remote areas in underdeveloped countries—some countries have done better.

6. The cost of health delivery has also been managed in many African states. While some implement health insurance policies, others have heavily subsidised drugs to make health affordable to the poor. The quality of health service is still a major hurdle.

7. And so what?

8. While much of the concentration is on these diseases, chronic diseases are increasingly killing many Africans every year. Top among these are cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

9. Sadly, these diseases are increasingly affecting the promising young population of the continent. In 2019, they accounted for 37% of death on the continent. The figure stood at 24% in 2000—not good.

10. Cervical, breast, prostate and lung cancers are among the common types found in the region. Unfortunately, many are unable to afford the treatment for these dangerous ailments. Health insurance and subsidies do not usually cover them. Patients often end up exhausting their savings and family finances before losing their lives.

11. Way forward?

12. Health systems across the region must pay attention to chronic diseases and develop comprehensive measures to tackle them. Education and awareness on healthy lifestyles; and affordable treatments would go a long way to better the lives of the people and reverse the unfortunate trend.

13. African states must invest in research into both “conventional” and herbal medicine—which has great potential with the diverse plant species in the continent.

14. Many more…

By Fidel Amakye Owusu – International Relations and Security Analyst and Writer

Article Reproduced with Permission from Fidel Amakye Owusu

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