In what it seems an unusual concern in Ethiopia’s public health, the government revealed that being overweight and obesity is emerging fast as a non-communicable public health concern. Similarly, tobacco and alcohol effects have also become a dire concern in urban areas.
For a long time, poverty has been regarded as first and foremost factor for poor health and health care in Ethiopia, along with high rates of respiratory and other communicable infections, such as maternal mortality, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS compounded by acute malnutrition and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
But the unprecedented report from the Ministry of Health (MoH) indicated the nation is becoming more associated with an emerging concern of health with growing cases of obesity among citizens along with other types of non-transmittable diseases including alcohol and tobacco use coupled by pollution and hazardous chemicals.
The Minister of Health, Kestebirhan Admassu (MD), who presented his office’s nine month report performance on Tuesday to the House of Peoples’ Representatives, said that despite the nation’s successful achievements to meet the major goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the health sector, non-transmittable types of diseases have become a major concern of the government and need to be addressed with the participation of all stakeholders.
According to the minister, the cases of obesity are increasing along with growing cases of alcohol, tobacco and various kinds of drug consumption, particularly in the urban areas of the country.
The minister did not give detailed information on the rate of the cases or details about which urban areas have serious registered cases, but he attributes the economic growth of the country that primarily causes the weight increase.
He further told MPs that the coverage of non-transmittable diseases is increasing in most urban areas due to air pollution, hazardous chemicals and other external causes which affects the health condition of urban residents. He also underscored that there should be a strong effort made to control such non-transmittable disease expansion, though it requires huge financial capacity and expensive remedy by its nature.
As part of measurement, Kestebirhan told MPs that the government is undertaking a thorough study, what he called, “the largest study of its kind in Africa” on non-transmittable diseases.
In most countries obesity is regarded as a burden and manifests itself in premature death and disability, in health care costs, in lost productivity, and in social stigmatization. The burden is not trivial. Studies show that the risk of death rises with increasing weight.
Obesity is a leading cause of preventable illness and death in North America. People who are obese are at a much higher risk for serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, and some cancers than people who have a healthy weight.
In the same report, Kesetebirhan also outlined the major achievements that have been done to control the common health problems that the country has, particularly the disease types that are listed in the MDGs.
Accordingly, the country registers major achievements in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
According to the minister, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has currently fallen to 0.03 percent, which was 0.08 and 1.5 percents in 2014 and 2011 respectively.
Regarding malaria, the minster indicated that the death reports due to malaria have decreased by 73 percent as no malaria outbreak has been reported in the past nine months even though there is favorable condition for malaria.