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The Burden of non-Communicable Diseases

Rapid rise in incidences of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Nyeri County present a growing burden with huge social-economic impact at the household level.

The situation has subjected families to catastrophic expenditures spiraling many to a vicious cycle of poverty.

With statistics indicating that two out of three deaths in the county were directly linked to NCDs, the situation according to county leadership calls for drastic measures to be taken including increased investments in preventive and curative care.

The leadership feels the move to have the county as one of the four pilot counties for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) due to its close association with high prevalence of NCDs, including diabetes and hypertension will go a long way in strengthening health systems and alleviating human suffering.

In his support for the UHC roll-out, Governor Mutahi Kahiga says his administration was focusing more on promoting preventive care by strengthening primary healthcare such as empowering families to take charge of their own health.

“We aspire to progressively shift our main focus from ill health and hospitals to communities and families to take charge of their health,” says the Governor.

This, by extension the county boss says will play a key role in reversing the trend of non-communicable diseases as primary health care increasingly gain recognition as a precursor for universal health care.

Statistics indicate that prevalence of NCDs globally has been attributed to exposures to main risk factors including unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

The Governor says the government has hired over 2, 500 Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) and equipped them with kits for screening of hypertension and diabetes at the household level.

He says the CHVs are also charged with the responsibility of treating minor ailments, adding that this robust community program will provide a platform for the successful implementation of UHC in the county.

Kahiga asserts that though funding has not been commensurate with the magnitude of the NCDs challenge due to inadequate funding and poor prioritization, his administration is gradually investing in the health sector.

He nonetheless says, the county has invested heavily in strengthening of health infrastructure, including procurement of medical equipment and supplies as well as human resource.

He says they are also focusing on automation of all health facilities as part of transition to electronic model to enhance effectiveness, efficiency and transparency.

To supplement these efforts, the Governor appeals to residents to enroll in health insurance to cushion families against meeting huge cost of medical care out of their own pockets.

He says there has been low uptake of health insurance at 32 percent, which calls for new strategies to be formulated to increasing enrollment.

“Health insurance provides financial protection to families through reduction of out of pocket payments to avoid being impoverished by the burden of cash payments when accessing care,” governor says.

Meanwhile, registration is ongoing in the area for the UHC pilot programme with over 421, 000 people registered out of the targeted 830, 269 Nyeri County population.

The exercise ends on Wednesday next week.

By Samuel Waititu

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