Study Tour: The Burden of NCDs in Low Resource Settings

Last week, GHC Executive Director Christine Sow accompanied US Senate staffers to Uganda and Rwanda on a study tour organized by the Livestrong Foundation and Management Sciences for Health. We will be featuring blogs and pictures from Christine on the tour for the next four days – read on to hear about the trip, NCDs, and global health challenges. 

Dr. Sow (center) at meeting in Kampala

Dr. Sow (center) at meeting in Kampala. Photo credit: Brigid Boettler/MSH

I’m excited to be spending the week with US policy makers and representatives from the Livestrong Foundation and MSH in Uganda and Rwanda. We’re here to look at the burden of Non-Communicable Disease and how they are, or are not, taken into account in the national health systems of the two countries. So far, over a very short period of time we’ve been privileged to meet with many of the top decision-makers and senior management of Uganda’s health system and have heard first hand of the challenges and triumphs they’ve experienced in dealing with NCDs in low resource settings.

The great challenge of combating NCDs in a country like Uganda is that they are just one of many critical priorities within the health sector; not surprisingly most of Uganda’s health budget and donor aid for health are channeled into fighting communicable disease and funding child survival and maternal health programming.

There is strong clear message from donors and government alike that additional funds will not be forthcoming and that other ways will need to be identified to begin addressing the not-insignificant burden from NCDs. One key approach that is emerging is that of integrated health programming.  The lessons learned around the importance of integrating HIV and AIDS programming into existing health systems must now be extended to provide a platform for NCDs. The health systems platform is there, but the addition of prevention, screening and treatment for the “big four” – cardiovascular diseases, chronic-respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer – pose a considerable challenge, especially when the already inadequate state of the Ugandan health system is taken into account. But the economic and social impact of the growing burden of NCDs in Uganda is undeniable so something must be done.

This is part 1 of 4, click here to read on to part 2: Combating NCDs with Limited Resources