Skip to content
Main menu hidden.
Published: 2008-02-25

Inadequate prevention efforts despite chronic disease epidemic in Ethiopia

NEWS The incidence of chronic disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, is increasing in Ethiopia. However, efforts towards prevention are lacking, mostly because chronic diseases are regarded as “diseases of affluence” or “Western diseases.” Fikru Tesfaye presents this conclusion in the defence of his PhD dissertation at Umeå University on 29 February.

Developing countries are facing a growing burden of chronic diseases, which constitute a “double burden” alongside infectious diseases and nutritional problems. However, adequate efforts are not devoted to their prevention and control in Ethiopia and other African countries, as chronic diseases are widely regarded as “diseases of affluence” or “diseases of the west.”

In contrary to widespread belief, the epidemiology of diseases in poor and rich populations is converging rapidly, such that cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers are widely prevalent among the rich and poor alike. As a country develops economically, chronic disease risks may first increase among the wealthy but soon concentrate among the poor.

Chronic diseases and poverty are interconnected in a vicious cycle. In many countries, it is the poorest people who are most at risk of developing chronic diseases and dying prematurely from them, as they are least able to cope with the resulting financial burden. Chronic diseases can cause poverty in individuals and families, and draw them into a downward spiral of worsening disease and poverty.

The main chronic diseases – cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and cancers – share a few common risk factors that are related to diet and lifestyle behaviours. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, and being overweight, obese or physically inactive, all of which are on the rise in many African countries.

The contribution of these risk factors to CVD is consistent in Africa and other parts of the world. Thus, just five risk factors account for about 90 % of the risk of first myocardial infarction in African populations.

Although the effect of risk factors on CVD in Africa is similar to that in other populations, twice as many deaths from CVD now occur in developing countries as in developed countries. These diseases affect younger populations and lead to premature mortality in developing countries due to lack of prevention or effective management of CVD risk factors. Stroke and cervical cancer occur at younger ages and in larger numbers in the African region than in developed countries. This research sets the foundation for future efforts of prevention and control of CVD and related chronic diseases in Ethiopia.

For more information, please contact Fikru Tesfaye at: Phone: +46 (0)90-785 12 19 or +46 (0)90-785 27 69 E-mail: ttfikru@yahoo.com

On 29 February, Fikru Tesfaye, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Epidemiology and Public Health Sciences, Umel University, will defend his dissertation titled “Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in Ethiopia: The urban-rural divide.” The defence begins at 9:00 am in Room 135 at Norrlands University Hospital.

The appointed faculty opponent is Professor Rainer Sauerborn, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

The complete dissertation and abstract, written in English, are available at: www.diva-portal.org/umu/theses/abstract.xsql?dbid=1543

Editor: Bertil Born