AS countries around the world continue to battle the novel coronavirus pandemic, increasing attention is now being placed on the safety and health of persons who are already suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Director of the Pan American Health Organisation, Carissa F. Etienne in May last year had said that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the region of the Americas must include chronic-disease care, as one in four people are at increased risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19 due to underlying non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Etienne had noted that persons with diabetes are twice as likely to have severe disease or die. She also disclosed that 28 per cent of cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 died, compared with two per cent of overall patients, citing recent studies.
PAHO has also noted that smoking increases the chance of severe disease from COVID-19. Stay-at-home measures, disruptions in provision of health care services, as well as the fear of attending care facilities have resulted in reduced elective clinic visits and lower access to renal dialysis, cancer care, and delays in high-priority treatments for patients with NCDs, Dr. Etienne said, pointing out that many health workers who normally provide care for people with chronic diseases “have been redirected to the COVID-19 response, adversely impacting the timely diagnosis and treatment of NCDs.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some 71 per cent of deaths globally were a result of non-communicable diseases. This disturbing statistic as made known by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suggests that people can live healthier and longer lives.
Demographic research has shown a predisposition for certain diseases in one race as against others and effective management of the problem requires diverting resources to the source. Though a recent report has said that Guyanese are living longer and this fact also requires improving or facilitating institutions to suit this demographic, the elderly also bring with them their own form on NCDS such as high or low blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and dementia, which will require unique treatment plans.
As such, government may also find it useful dealing with NCDs both from a preventive and curative/management standpoint. Where some diseases are preventable, based on lifestyle choice, such as eating healthy and exercising, public education and other forms of up-front incentives could serve as worthy investment in the people.
Ours is a society where reservations or disinterest exists about seeing a doctor, unless very sick. It is not uncommon when one is feeling unwell to tie his/her head, put a leaf in the head tie, sap the forehead with Limacol or methylated spirits, drink a panadol, some “bush tea” or epsom salts, thinking the symptoms and cause will go away. Periodic visits to a doctor could lead to early detection, diagnosis, and management of what the illness might be.
Needless to say, persons are walking around with heart issues, abnormal cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, are overweight or obese, and with cancer, which when unattended, can suffer dire consequences. Impressing upon society the importance of these examinations as a means of knowing, and the fact that early detection can save lives, can never be over-emphasised.
Alcohol abuse can lead to NCDs in the form of alcoholism, which is a problem in our society.
Abuse of prescription medications and other substances such as heroin and cocaine will also lead to NCDs. These are mental issues that require specific planning, treatment and diversion of resources. They also lead to other socio-economic spin-offs. Abuse takes place in the home, families are torn apart, children end up on the streets, themselves abused, teenage pregnancy or in foster care. The cultivating of preferences for imported foods, the majority of which are over-processed and of cheap quality, necessitates that attention be given to the consequences their consumption could bring.
These foods also carry other additives that have proven to be unhealthy. NCDs do not only affect the individual, they also affect the family and communities as a whole.
This is why regular checkups are important to prevent them from becoming life-threatening, moreso in light of rising cases of COVID-19 and the risks to life posed by the virus.