It is no news that Nigeria is faced with several challenges, some of which are in health. We have read about the budgetary allocation and how our health institutions are doing. What we are not conscious of is the increasing burden and deaths due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Nigeria accounts for not less than 27% of the global deaths due to NCDs according to the Director General of Nigerian Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in 2016. What this means is for every given period, more than 1 in 4 persons die in Nigeria out of the total global deaths due to NCDs.
Causes of High Prevalence
It is known that genetics has a role to play in the development of chronic ailments. However, the situation has been worsened by health inequities, choice of lifestyle as well as the physical and social environments. We have accepted the situation and internalise it as our new reality. The government has not implemented the best buy interventions for NCD prevention and control.
We don’t have implemented rules guiding the sales of alcohol, tobacco and sugar. Our institutions are either not producing results or are not using them efficiently. The citizens keep abusing products that are bad for health, consume high salt and prefer sedentary lifestyle. We are not consciously doing something to change the narrative. The situation has led to increasing loss of family and friends to preventable deaths.
What if we can prevent these deaths? What if we can extend the lives of those living with chronic ailments? What if we can reduce the rate of the development of these diseases among the younger generation? If all these are possible which are, by the way, we should explore the options. We only need to do more individually and collectively. Just as our Government and non-state actors, we need to take a stand and work to reduce NCDs in our lives, our homes and our neighbourhood.
I lead a consortium of young minds, The Wellbeing Initiative, who are troubled by the statistics and have pledged to work towards beating NCDs in Nigeria. I meet young minds who are advocates for better lifestyle and diet. I appreciate the steps taken by the government so far. I see the unrelenting attitude of non-state actors and organisations who dedicate their resources to curbing the menace. I read about the activities of international organisations and States to create a better world where people don’t die of preventable deaths.
I have a dream of a different world, a world with reduced chronic diseases, where patients are cared for. A world with better quality of life for those living with NCDs. In this world, we don’t suffer the agony of losing loved ones to preventable deaths. Likewise, we are not losing our brilliant minds and future nation builders at a tender age.
Until we get to that world, we all have to realise the challenge and do our best in our roles. I believe that our government should unify our efforts using guided policies and strategic plans towards reducing NCDs in Nigeria. I believe that we need to implement strict laws guiding the use of tobacco, alcohol, sugar and other causatives of NCDs.
I believe that the civil society – academia, civic organisations, youths and other stakeholders should take up the challenge to intensify efforts towards doing what they’re doing to change the narrative. Above all, I believe that we all should individually consciously alter our lifestyle for better health and well-being.