Posts or Comments 24 June 2024

Cholera &Chronic/NCDs &Environment &Health Systems &Measles &Yellow Fever Bill Brieger | 27 Mar 2024 01:49 pm

Challenges Facing Public Health in 21st Century Africa

Solomon Afolabi has delved into the challenges for public health in 21st Century Africa in the posting below. He is currently an Advisor to the Upper Nile Institute (UNI) of South Sudan, Kiryandongo, Uganda and an Alumnus of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and its African Public Health Network.

As we move further into the 21st century, the challenges facing public health in Africa are becoming increasingly complex and difficult to address. Despite numerous advancements in medical technology, many African nations continue to struggle with a wide range of health issues, which have been their most pressing challenges. These issues span a wide spectrum, from infectious diseases like cholera, malaria, Ebola, HIV, and more recently, coronavirus, to an escalating burden of chronic diseases. However, these health concerns are not isolated; they intersect with broader socio-economic factors such as povertyarmed conflicts, and government mismanagement. WHO in April 2023 stated that, “for all the hard-won gains that have been made over the past 75 years, more than 100 health emergencies still occur in the African Region annually, including outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever, meningitis, measles, and Ebola. These emergencies still pose a significant threat to the health, well-being, and development of African countries”

Photo: Cholera active case finding team, Kalikiliki settlement in Lusaka, Zambia (October, 2023)

The battle against infectious diseases in Africa is still ongoing. While a significant number of these diseases have been largely eradicated in other parts of the world, they continue to pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of millions of people across the continent. As earlier stated, these diseases including tuberculosis  are still major public health concerns in many African nations, and efforts to address these issues are often complicated by factors such as poverty, lack of access to healthcare, limited resources and governments not making meaningful investments.

Another major challenge facing public health in Africa is the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which includes conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, often associated with lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and smoking. Contrary to the traditional thought of NCDs as diseases of affluence, they are becoming increasingly prevalent in many African countries. This is partly due to changing lifestyles and the adoption of more westernized diets, as well as limited access to preventative healthcare services.

A third major challenge facing public health in Africa is the impact of environmental factors on health. Poor air quality, contaminated water, and inadequate sanitation are all major factors contributing to a range of health problems across the continent. In many cases, these environmental factors are linked to poverty and lack of access to basic resources such as clean water and sanitation facilities. Climate change is also expected to have a significant impact on public health in Africa in the coming decades, with rising temperatures and changing weather patterns likely to exacerbate existing health challenges.

Photo: Climate change projected to cause global food shortages, WHO-AFRO

Furthermore, there is the challenge of ensuring that healthcare services are accessible and affordable to all. Many African nations continue to struggle with limited resources and infrastructure when it comes to healthcare and ensuring that all individuals have access to basic healthcare services remains a significant challenge. This is compounded by factors such as corruption, political instability, and conflict, which can disrupt healthcare services and limit access to care. Despite these challenges, there are also reasons for optimism when it comes to public health in Africa. Advances in medical technology and healthcare delivery are helping to address many of these issues, and there is growing awareness of the importance of preventative healthcare measures such as vaccination and early detection. Additionally, there are many dedicated healthcare professionals and organizations working tirelessly to improve vaccine production and health outcomes across the continent.

In conclusion, the challenges facing public health in 21st century Africa are many and varied. From the ongoing battle against infectious diseases to the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases and the impact of environmental factors on health, there are many complex issues that need to be addressed. However, with continued investment and dedication, there is reason to believe that progress can be made in improving health outcomes for all Africans.

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