Kenya: NCDs leading cause of death of older people, Global AgeWatch Insights report reveals

The number of deaths attributable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Kenya is on the rise, according to the Kenya findings of Global AgeWatch Insights 2018, a new report from HelpAge International and AARP.

Kenya has seen an increase of cases of non-communicable diseases, with the Ministry of Health reporting they are responsible for over 55% of deaths in Kenya, more than half of hospital admissions and 74.8% of the total years lived with disability.

Launched globally on 12 December, Universal Health Coverage Day, Global AgeWatch Insights 2018 focuses on older people’s right to health, and how health systems need to adapt to ensure older women and men can realise their right to health. In addition to the global analysis, the report explores national trends on older people’s health status in 12 countries, including Kenya.

The Global AgeWatch Insights probes how health systems could be reformed to better respond to shifting disease patterns, and ensure the availability, accessibility and quality of health services for older people.

Msaid HelpAge international has supported the government to carry out better health programmes for older people such as health systems strengthening delivered primarily through training of health workers and curriculum development, building on existing experience while addressing some of the other key WHO building blocks.

He added that HelpAge takes a holistic approach to health and care in older age, focusing on promoting wellbeing, and not addressing each disease in isolation.

”The inadequate response to older people’s health care needs by health care systems is driven, in part, by a lack of data on older people’s health needs,” he said.

The report explores how universal health coverage (UHC) and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development can help to realise older people’s right to health.

According to the AgeWatch Insights, NCDs accounted for 74.8 per cent of the total years lived with disability in Kenya in 2015 with similar patterns for men and women.

For men aged 50 to 69, the rate varied over the period between 76 and 80 per cent, while for men aged 70 and over it varied between 82 and 84 per cent. For women aged 50 to 69, the proportion ranged between 78 and 82 per cent and for women aged 70 and over, between 84 and 85 per cent over the 25 years.

However, the number of deaths related to NCDs has increased. This figure reached 44.5 per cent among people aged 50 to 69, and 51.2 per cent among those aged 70 and over in 2015.

According to the report, the prevalence of major depressive disorders increases in Kenyan men and women between the ages of 50 and 80, after which it declines. Women have a higher prevalence of depressive disorders than men across all age groups over 50 years.

The mortality rates from self-harm for men aged 70 and over increased between 2010 and 2015. For women aged 70 and over, rates were highest in 2000, and then declined through to 2016.

The report calls for universal health coverage for all at all ages, and improved access to services including prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease among older men and women to realise their right to health.

Justin Derbyshire, Chief Executive Officer of HelpAge International, said: “This year, as we celebrate the 70th anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the founding of the World Health Organization, it is significant that older people are being left. Older people have the right to health, but they are not being counted in key data, and health services are not being adapted to meet their needs.

“Health systems in low and middle-income countries are facing severe challenges, but the global drive towards universal health coverage is an opportunity to strengthen these and meet the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure healthy lives and wellbeing for all at all ages.”

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