In a bid to reduce premature Noncommunicable Disease (NCD) deaths by 25% come 2025, the Health Promotion Unit (HPU), under the Ministry of Health (MoH) is providing additional training to nurses on the frontlines to identify and treat NCD patients.
NCD has been reputed as a ‘Silent Killer’ and has notoriously lived up to its unscrupulous moniker, with Vanuatu’s high NCD prevalence rate it’s unsettling to see data that supports it.
World Health Organization Health Promotion Officer in collaboration with MoH Myriam Abel explained: “In 2011 we conducted an NCD step survey for the country, results were quiet alarming, it showed 21% of the total population of Vanuatu has diabetes, based on the 2018 census that’s close to 30,000 sick with diabetes, so our duty is to train our nurses to manage the patient.”
On the heels of the Global Declaration made by the United Nations in 2012 that included the reduction of premature mortality from NCD by 2025, since Vanuatu was part of the assembly, the HPU has been working for the last eight years to reach its nine goals, premature deaths included.
“Health promotion unit to facilitate the implementation of NCD-PEN (Package of Essential Noncommunicable) diseases intervention meaning we need to train our nurses to identify people who are sick with diabetes or high blood pressure in any part of the country we have introduced that in 2012 and we have been very drastic since 2012 till today,” she said.
Part of the pushback against NCDs are increased screening, stronger networking and monitoring everyone between the age groups of 25-60.
“We ask our nurses from 25-60 we have to do an NCD screening within this population either blood pressure or sugar, then we have to manage it from there because we want to avoid complications because the end stage is amputations.”
“The NCD screening we did today, we manage to find three people with high blood pressure, we start telling them this is what we want them to do, either put them on diet or we connect with our NCD clinic in VCH and we send the person to go for further follow-up.”
WHO’s Global Health Observatory statistics recorded Vanuatu life expectancy in 2016 as 70yrs old for males and 74 for females, now the WHO officer Ms. Abel said the life expectancy is the same for males, but females dropped to 67yrs old.
A change in lifespan could be linked to the disregard of the four NCD risk factors which is an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, abuse of alcohol and cigarette addiction.
“Today in Vila the diet is rice and tuna, you go to the far end, to the remote end you will find rice and chicken wing, the diet you have here (Port Vila) you have it there too (Islands), diet has changed quiet tremendously, we need to make this shift in the mindset of Ni Vanuatu,” she said.
In 2022 a second NCD step survey will be conducted to find out if the number of diabetics and those with high blood pressure have decreased.
According to Ms. Abel, this data will be presented in 2025 at the UN General Assembly, overall reporting if Vanuatu has decreased its NCD premature mortality rate by 25% in the last 13yrs.
An excited Ms. Abel grinned and said, “I want to believe that the current generation is going to stop NCDs”.
Optimistic that her team is able to reach the nine targets she added, “I think we are doing well”.