By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Deputy Chief Medical Officer – Clinical, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Mustapha Kabba has on May 31st officially launched the Med Tronic LABS in Sierra Leone. The launching took place at the Family Kingdom, Aberdeen in Freetown.
Delivering his keynote address, DR Kabba said diabetes and hypertension are non-communicable diseases that are prioritized by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. He said according to a self-survey conducted in 2019, the ministry realised that 70 to 75% of the population have 1 to 2 risk factors of Non-Communicable Disease (NCD). He added that another survey done in 2018 showed that 77% of people above 40 years have at least one NCD factor and some having over three factors.
He further states that the 2018 survey revealed that over 50% of Sierra Leonean population has hypertension while over 7% are obess.
Dr.Kabba said NCD contribute to about 41% of mortality in the country and emphasised that NCD affect all irrespective of age, sex, tribe or region.
He maintained that NCDs are driven by risk factors some of which he said are modifiable whiles others are not.
“Those that are not modifiable are not preventable while those that are modifiable can be averted through behavioral change,” he said, adding that behavioral change can be achieved through policies, legislations and strategies which guide those behaviours.
Idrissa Cole, Country Lead Sierra Leone Medtronic LABS, said the Medtronic LABS started operation in Sierra Leone since December 2011 with the aim of improving health care delivery to diabetic and hypertensive patients in the country.
He said the LABS was currently operating in 9 (nine) Christian Hospital in the country, adding that they operate by using a community-based approach with a technological platform called the spice platform through which community screening is done for diabetic and hypertensive patients.
Cole said LABS also provides continuous assessment and follow-up to see that patient are well managed and their lives being improved because there is an increase in hypertensive and diabetic patients in the country.
“The ‘Betteh Lyfe’ project has been supporting health facilities with consumable and non-consumable electronic applications so that they can look face cleaning involvement of patients across the nine facilities. Screening and enrollment are free but also the facilities have to sustain the programme especially in terms of medication that is why we are working with our donor funding organisations to support the long-term sustainability of the project. There is no national data on diabetes and hypertension but we have been able to enroll over 500 patients at community level so far,” he stated.
In his remark, Dr Steven Shongwe, WHO representative, said Sierra Leone like many other developing countries, faces a triple burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases and injuries. He lamented that the burden of NCDs and injuries is growing fast and if the trend continues, NCDs will become the leading causes of illness, deaths and disabilities in the coming years. He said cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (COPD) and injuries are the leading causes of death.
He pointed out that most of those NCDs are due to exposure to risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol and air pollution. The high prevalence of hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases including heart disease and stroke.
“I am delighted to note that the Betteh Lyfe project is in line with the WHO PEN. Like the WHO PEN, the project is people centered and seeks to integrate NCD prevention and management into primary health care settings. It is good to see that the project focuses on hypertension and diabetes which are the first two protocols of WHO PEN,” he stated.
Dr. Shongwe highlighted the important role the University of Sierra Leone plays especially College of Medicine in provision of health services in the country. “There is need for all of us to work together as faith based organization, the private sector, Civil Society Organizations CSOs and government,” he stated.