Africa makes gains in life ex­pectancy

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By RUTH MBULA Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

THE WORLD Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s State of Health in Africa re­port has lauded coun­tries like Al­ge­ria for good cov­er­age of avail­able health services, Cape Verde for good com­mu­nity de­mand for es­sen­tial services, and re­silience of health sys­tems while Mau­ri­tius tops the list for ac­cess to services.

Namibia recorded good fi­nan­cial risk pro­tec­tion, Sey­chelles had good cov­er­age of health-re­lated services and South Africa boasted good health se­cu­rity.

“Coun­tries with good prac­tices are iden­ti­fied so that oth­ers can learn lessons across the dif­fer­ent di­men­sions of uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age and other Sus­tain­able Development Goals health tar­gets,” said WHO.

Un­der the SDGS, coun­tries have com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing healthy lives and pro­mot­ing well-be­ing for all at all ages as well as achiev­ing a range of health tar­gets by 2030.

The re­port sur­mised that coun­tries place more fo­cus on the per­for­mance of their sys­tems, to achieve cross-cut­ting and sus­tain­able im­prove­ments in uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age and other tar­gets in­flu­enc­ing health across the SDGS.

There has been a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in the state of health in Africa with healthy life ex­pectancy — time spent in full health — in the re­gion in­creas­ing from 50.9 years to 53.8 be­tween 2012 and 2015 — the most marked in­crease of any re­gion in the world.

The top killers are still lower res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions, HIV and di­ar­rhoea and coun­tries have rou­tinely fo­cused on pre­vent­ing and treat­ing th­ese, of­ten through spe­cialised pro­grammes.

“Africans are now liv­ing longer and health­ier lives,” said Dr Moeti. “Nearly three years of ex­tra health is a gift that makes us all proud. We hope that th­ese gains will con­tinue and Africa reaches global stan­dards.”

How­ever, uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age re­quires that all con­di­tions af­fect­ing a pop­u­la­tion, not only pri­or­ity con­di­tions be im­proved. Chronic ail­ments like heart disease and can­cer are now claim­ing more lives with a per­son aged be­tween 30 and 70 years in the re­gion hav­ing a one in five chance of dy­ing from a non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble disease.

Coun­tries are specif­i­cally fail­ing to pro­vide es­sen­tial services to two crit­i­cal age groups — ado­les­cents and the el­derly. As the pop­u­la­tion ages in Africa, the el­derly need se­nior care. How­ever, al­most a third of re­spon­dents sur­veyed as part of the re­port high­lighted the ab­sence of any services for the el­derly in their coun­tries.

“Health services must keep up with the evolv­ing health trends in the re­gion,” said Dr Moeti.

“In the past we fo­cused on spe­cific diseases as th­ese were caus­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ately high num­ber of deaths. We have been suc­cess­ful at stop­ping th­ese threats and peo­ple’s health is now be­ing chal­lenged by a broad range of con­di­tions. We need to de­velop a new, more holis­tic ap­proach to health.”

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