The Ministry of Health, Kenya Cardiac Society and the NCD Alliance of Kenya have called for continuity of essential health services for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as heart diseases, diabetes and cancer which are still the leading cause of death worldwide.
According to the Kenya Stepwise survey for NCDs, these diseases contribute to over 50 percent of inpatient admissions and 40 percent of hospital mortality. The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) like heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. Mortality due to CVDs in Kenya ranges from 6.1 percent to 8 percent, while autopsy studies suggest that more than 13 percent of cause-specific deaths among adults could be due to CVDs.
People living with NCDs (such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancer) as well as older persons above 60 years are more likely to be severely ill when infected with Coronavirus disease. Therefore, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of NCDs must be a cornerstone of the COVID-19 response in Kenya.
Following the onset of the pandemic, there has been a significant drop in hospital visits by the public due to fear of contracting the virus. The negative consequences of this has a greater impact among people living with NCDs who need long term follow up and medication. Many patients may not continue with their routine treatment and are therefore will be unable to adequately manage their conditions while at home.
This may result in increased complications and even fatalities reversing the gains made to address the growing burden of NCDs in the country.“The Ministry of Health is keen on continuity of Universal Health Coverage and therefore is working alongside key stakeholders to ensure that these diseases are not side-lined at this time. Some of the measures that have been put in place include ensuring all NCD clinics at the county health facilities remain open so that patients can get the services they need including medication. Strict infection prevention and control measures have been put in place at the clinics to ensure that patients and public are protected even as they seek care, ” said Dr Ephantus Maree, Ministry of Health.
The Ministry of Health has issued guidance to persons living with NCDs on what they need to do at this time to ensure they are able to manage their conditions. This includes ensuring that they continue with their medication and have enough drugs to last one month or more. Patient with hypertension and diabetes should continue monitoring their blood pressure (BP) and blood sugar regularly while at home.
“Kenya Cardiac Society would like to emphasis on the importance of continuing to seek essential health services during the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic. Patients with Hypertension and other heart diseases should continue with the treatment routine as prescribed by their health provider. In addition, they should not hesitate to seek health services in case of emergencies or if they develop symptoms while at home. At this time, partnerships and collaborations are key in provision of quality healthcare services. I commend the Ministry of Health for the efforts they have put in place to ensure that NCDs services continue to be available at the county health facilities,” said Dr Bernard Gitura, President, Kenya Cardiac Society.
Speaking during the stakeholder webinar co-organised with Pfizer’s Upjohn Division, Dr Catherine Karekezi, member of the NCD Alliance of Kenya highlighted that there is an urgent need to sustain public awareness campaigns and interventions to reduce risk factors and the burden of cardiovascular diseases in Kenya.
“During this period where people are being encouraged to stay at home, we urge all to keep active and do regular physical activities at home, avoid unhealthy diet and food with high salt content as well as refrain from excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco use to evade a surge of NCD illnesses once the pandemic is over.”