With a population growth rate of 3.32% and urbanization rate of 5.74%, Uganda’s population is among the fastest growing in the world. As the country grows and urbanizes, the prevalence of high-risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet, and physical inactivity increase. These behaviors are the main risk factors for NCDs, which accounted for an estimated 25% of national mortality in 2008. As rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other NCDs continue to rise, so too will healthcare costs.
Until 2005, NCDs received little attention in Uganda and it was not until 2007 that the Ministry of Health established an NCD program. Even with these steps, the rate of NCDs continues to rise and the Ugandan healthcare system lacks a critical continuum from primary to tertiary prevention and multilevel interventions. To help address these needs, civil society organizations, such as the Uganda NCD Alliance, have emerged to raise funds and awareness but even with this emergence, the WHO predicts NCDs will reach epidemic proportions by 2025 unless Uganda adopts better preventive, control and surveillance measures.
The health challenges faced by Uganda represent significant global challenges in the fight against NCDs, and they have important implications for public health in sub-Saharan Africa, where NCDs have traditionally not been given a high priority. By visiting Uganda, the Congressional staffers will examine the importance of a strong integrated healthcare system and civil society.