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Rising NCDs Among Healthcare Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Call for Action

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The escalating burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in sub-Saharan Africa is not only a significant public health challenge but also poses a dire threat to the region’s healthcare workforce. A recent study highlights the alarming prevalence of chronic diseases among healthcare workers (HCWs) in four sub-Saharan countries, emphasizing the urgent need for targeted interventions. This shortage of healthcare personnel exacerbates the impact of NCDs, creating a vicious cycle that undermines both prevention and treatment efforts.

Study Overview and Methodology

Conducted between February and December 2022, the cross-sectional study examined NCD prevalence in HCWs from Côte d’Ivoire (CIV), Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar (MDG), and Nigeria (NIG). Utilizing a standardized questionnaire, researchers gathered self-reported data on sociodemographic factors, chronic diseases, and treatment patterns. The prevalence of at least one chronic disease and hypertension were calculated, and backward elimination logistic regression models identified associated risk factors.

Key Findings

The study sampled 6,848 HCWs and found that the prevalence of at least one chronic disease varied from 9.7% in Nigeria to 20.6% in Madagascar. Hypertension rates ranged from 5.4% in CIV to 11.3% in MDG, with the highest reported treatment rates peaking at 36.5%. Age and body mass index (BMI) were significant factors increasing the odds of chronic diseases and hypertension across all countries. Additionally, male HCWs generally displayed lower odds of NCDs, except in CIV.

In Nigeria, medical doctors and HCWs in secondary care had higher odds of both outcomes, while in Madagascar, secondary care workers faced increased odds of chronic diseases, and auxiliary staff had decreased odds.

Actionable Insights for Policy Makers

– Focus on age-specific and BMI-targeted interventions to reduce NCD prevalence among HCWs.
– Prioritize secondary care settings in Nigeria and Madagascar for NCD management programs.
– Implement gender-sensitive strategies to address the distinct needs of male and female HCWs.
– Enhance treatment accessibility and adherence among HCWs to improve health outcomes.

The study underscores the need for comprehensive strategies that address both individual and occupational risk factors, aiming to alleviate the NCD burden among healthcare workers. Recognizing these determinants is crucial for developing effective interventions and policies tailored to the unique challenges faced by HCWs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original Article: Front Public Health. 2024 May 13;12:1375221. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2024.1375221. eCollection 2024.

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