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Busting some myths about chronic diseases by Ebele Mogo

Welcome to the maiden edition of the Engage Africa Foundation (E.A.F.) blog. We look forward to regularly updating our content with current discussion and debates on the issue of chronic non-communicable diseases.

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As you may know by now, we at E.A.F want to take action on reducing chronic non-communicable diseases through advocacy, awareness, health promotion, and results-oriented research. If you take a look around our website you will learn more about these goals in all their specificity.

Whereas chronic diseases are the leading cause of death in most regions of the world, certain preconceptions have often framed the discussion on chronic diseases. These myths militate against proper action in controlling and preventing this problem.

We will dispel some of these myths today.

Myth#1: Chronic diseases are diseases of the rich

Have you ever heard someone say diabetes is a rich man’s disease? Well not anymore.
Not only are four out of every five global deaths from chronic diseases found in poorer countries, but all over the world poorer people are more likely to die from chronic disease than the richer population.

Simply put- the wide range of stress factors attributed to poverty increases risk of chronic diseases, chronic diseases cause people to incur catastrophic healthcare costs, and this financial burden pushes them deeper into poverty. The vicious cycle created goes on and on and is even passed onto dependents and family members.

Myth#2: Chronic diseases are diseases of the elderly

Especially in low and middle income countries, this is not the case. Globally, close to half of chronic diseases develop before one’s 70th birthday. This observation is even direr in low and middle income countries as people in these regions of the world develop chronic diseases at younger ages while in their economically productive years. In addition, they suffer longer and die earlier from these diseases than people in high income countries.

In this setting where the family serves as the social security net, when a family member gets sick or dies due to chronic disease, the rest of the dependents are pushed into the vicious cycle discussed in Myth #1 above.

Myth#3: Africa ’s biggest problems at the moment are infectious diseases like HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria. How about we face these first?

Have you heard something along the lines? I sure have.
While it is true that infectious diseases contribute to a great number of deaths on the continent, a greater number of people die from chronic diseases in Africa than in any other part of the world.

In the next decade, sub Saharan Africa is projected to have the highest global increases in deaths from four common chronic diseases namely cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

This further burdens already fragile health systems which have prioritized only infectious and parasitic diseases until now. This is why we should act now before it is too late in preventing and controlling chronic diseases.

The three myths discussed above are just a few of the numerous myths that encourage inaction on chronic diseases. You have probably heard of others. Well share your views below and check out a few more myths here: http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/media/Factsheet2.pdf Be part of this story; click here to support us by donating to make our projects a reality.

Ebele Mogo,

President, Engage Africa Foundation

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Fighting non-communicable diseases in Africa through the voices and creativity of everyday people

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