The subject of sudden deaths among the middle-aged population in Uganda requires attention. Many young people are dying of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes which show a rising trend and yet rampant deaths from some of these chronic illnesses could be avoided.
On July 13, 2011, the New Vision reported that about 8,200 people die of diabetes-related complications annually. The report estimated that 8.2 million Ugandans could be diagnosed with the disease. Subsequent seminal work by Roy William Mayega (2014) projected that between 2010 and 2030; there will be 69 per cent increase in Type 2 diabetes in low income countries as compared to 20 per cent in developed countries. This trend shows that many Ugandans may be living with undiagnosed chronic illnesses due to the rapid lifestyle changes that are increasingly sedentary.
It is important to note that most chronic conditions such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer are silent killers. They never show signs and symptoms at early stages, so people never actually bother to check out their health status. This feeds off the common belief that associates illness with experiences of pain and immobilisation. In other societies, complaining of sickness is discounted, and taken for laziness, weakness, or unworthiness. It is a good practice for all individuals to visit a doctor for complete medical check-up at least twice a year.
There is need to amplify the dissemination of existing information on chronic diseases to the public in a more deliberate manner. Our societal pre-occupation with prevention of HIV has negated the investment in prevention of other chronic diseases.
It is also important to study trends in lifestyle changes in Uganda today as more people are becoming affluent. From a purely theoretical perspective, one could recognise that people in the urban centres are becoming increasingly prone to developing chronic diseases and illnesses, especially Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. These trends may explain the high rates of stroke and sudden deaths among the middle-aged population.
Unfortunately, it is very difficult to ascertain the causes of deaths that occur outside the hospitals because of the inaccuracies entailed in village autopsies. How villagers explain causes of death only complicates matters because for them, every death is rooted in some mystic causes. This behaviour compromises the ability of healthcare researchers in collecting accurate and timely data on causes of deaths.
If you pay much attention, you will also realise that cancer related diagnoses are on the increase. The key message here is that most of these chronic conditions are preventable; their onsets could be delayed, or reversed. Irrespective of genetic predisposition, screening and early detection may offer far better prognosis for all these conditions. Prevention and early screening of chronic diseases are the pinnacles of my career in public health and I am an ardent believer in health promotion as opposed to the costly curative medical practices.
We should implore our government to invest more in health prevention to keep the population healthy and productive. This would relieve the pressures on our healthcare system. Type 2 diabetes is preventable with the right combination of being physically active, have the right dietary intake with fruits and vegetables, staying smoke free, managing stress, maintaining a healthy weight, as well as keeping the right social network of people who think “health”.
Mr Komakech specialises in Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention for Toronto Public Health in Canada. email@example.com