by Jack Hlumo

A growing threat

Non-communicable diseases have increased to global proportions

A new health 'tsunami'
Non-communicable disease: a global threat

Described by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi as a ‘tsunami’, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose a growing threat to the health and welfare of South Africans. What is required is an active promotion of healthy living and educational strategies in order to ensure that the public is informed of associated health risks.

NCDs are diseases that are not contagious or transferable from one human to another. Random genetic abnormalities, genetics, lifestyle or environmental triggers can cause NCDs such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension and osteoporosis. Auto-immune diseases, mental disorders, malnutrition, and hormonal conditions also fall within this category of diseases.

“Managing one’s health through diet, exercise and enough rest can change the body’s response to stress and environmental factors to such an extent that it does not become prone to diseases such as diabetes and hypertension,” says Liberty Medical Scheme Executive Principal Officer, Andrew Edwards.

Not only should people be informed of better health initiatives, but business leaders should also conduct active reviews of the health status of employees, which is of high importance. In addition, the promotion of Wellness Days and preventative screening - will allow employees to undergo routine health tests, without having to pay for them from their savings benefits.

 

Liberty Medical Scheme plans to roll out various health day initiatives during 2013 and use these as a platform to promote preventative screening and early detection, allowing enough time for corrective action where needed.

“It is our responsibility to provide members and their beneficiaries with financial support during times of ill-health and assist them in achieving the best possible health outcome once they have been diagnosed. Early diagnosis of a disease means that the extent to which it manifests can be altered and further deterioration of an individual’s health can be prevented,” says Edwards.

Edwards firmly believes it is important for a medical scheme to play a role in preventing a NCD from becoming life threatening. “We have seen the benefit of implementing a focused disease management programme. Results from this programme have demonstrated a 28% decrease in health costs. This means better patient outcomes and fewer hospital admissions for the participants on our disease management programmes.” says Edwards.

Edwards adds that Liberty Medical Scheme initiatives and programmes to support healthy living complement the Department of Health’s plans to this end. According to Minister Motsoaledi, South Africa is working on the establishment of a National Health Commission specifically to target risk factors responsible for NCDs.

 

Concludes Edwards: “If we all join forces in the fight against NCDs, we can make significant inroads in combating this scourge, which, together with the triple burden of communicable diseases - HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria – causes our continent and its people far too much misery as well as excessive and unnecessary expense which could be used far more productively.”

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