TOGO – African health ministers have endorsed a new strategy known as PEN-PLUS, A Regional Strategy to Address Severe Noncommunicable Diseases at First-Level Referral Health Facilities, to curb the chronic disease crisis.
The African health ministers made the announcement of new strategy during ongoing the 72nd Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo.
According to WHO, the strategy adopted urges countries to institute standardized programmes to tackle chronic and severe noncommunicable diseases by ensuring that essential medicines, technologies and diagnostics are available and accessible at district hospitals.
WHO highlights that the strategy supports building the capacity of district hospitals and other first-level referral facilities to diagnose and manage severe noncommunicable diseases early, resulting in fewer deaths.
In Africa, the most prevalent severe noncommunicable diseases include sickle cell disease, type 1 and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, severe hypertension and moderate to severe and persistent asthma.
Furthermore, the PEN-PLUS strategy adopted during the WHO Regional Committee for Africa 2022 builds on existing WHO initiatives for integrated detection, diagnosis, treatment and care of noncommunicable diseases in primary health care facilities.
African governments should also ensure that people seeking care in private hospitals can access services for severe noncommunicable diseases in a move aimed at increasing in the number of patients accessing treatment as well as improvement in outcomes for these patients
“By offering noncommunicable disease care as a package of services available at primary and district health facilities, patients will find their expenses decrease as they spend less money on transportation, lodging in cities and less time in commuting to the health facilities,” WHO reports.
In addition, African health ministers called upon countries to bolster the protocols for prevention, care and treatment of chronic noncommunicable diseases through training and strengthening the skills and knowledge of health workers.
Africa’s new strategy aims to boost access to the diagnosis, treatment and care of severe noncommunicable diseases in a bid to ease the burden of cardiovascular disease, mental and neurological disorders and diabetes in the region.
“Africa is grappling with an increasingly hefty burden of chronic diseases whose severe forms are costing precious lives that could be saved with early diagnosis and care,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti acknowledged that the strategy adopted is pivotal in placing effective care within the reach of patients, noting that the strategy adopted marks a major step in improving the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the region.
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