AstraZeneca & South Africa’s National Department of Health to intensify community based screening for NCDs

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In a collaborative effort to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) on the public healthcare system, the National Department of Health has joined forces with AstraZeneca, through its Phakamisa programme, to intensify community-based screening aimed at preventing and controlling non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in South Africa.

The initiative is dedicated to facilitating the early detection and management of NCDs. This campaign aims to strengthen referrals to care and treatment, ensuring that vulnerable populations, including those in remote areas and historically marginalised communities, receive culturally appropriate healthcare services.

Non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory diseases, pose a significant health burden across the globe, contributing to increased morbidity and mortality rates. According to the World Health Organization, NCDs kill 41 million people each year worldwide, which is equivalent to 71% of all deaths globally. In South Africa, deaths related to NCDs increased by 58.7% over 20 years, from 103,428 in 1997 to 164,205 in 2018. Addressing these diseases requires a multifaceted approach that includes prevention, early detection, and comprehensive management.

The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo has now called on South Africans to be cognisant of what he has coined the five-by-five causative conditions of NCDs: Smoking, alcohol use, poor diet, lack of exercise, and air pollution, which contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancers, diabetes mellitus, and mental health issues. While individuals can control and reduce the first four factors, the fifth – air pollution – requires broader societal action. By reducing, stopping, or controlling these factors, the burden of NCDs and associated mental health ramifications can significantly decrease.

Commenting on the initiative, Dhlomo, said: “The initiative to intensify community-based screening for non-communicable diseases demonstrates a proactive approach to addressing health challenges at grassroots level. The partnership will enable us to leverage community-based resources and focus on early detection. It has the potential to significantly impact health outcomes and improve access to quality care for all South Africans. I commend the commitment of AstraZeneca to promoting preventive healthcare and enhancing the well-being of our communities.”

The partnership represents a powerful example of how public and private sectors can work together to address complex healthcare challenges. By combining their strengths and resources, the partners aim to create sustainable solutions that will have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of communities.

Deepak Arora, Country President African Cluster at AstraZeneca, said: “We are deeply committed to making a lasting and meaningful impact on community health outcomes. The collaboration with the National Department of Health reinforces our dedication to addressing the formidable challenges posed by non-communicable diseases. Through this partnership, we aim to improve early detection and management outcomes and also ensure that every individual has access to quality care. This exemplifies our belief in the power of collaboration and innovation to drive positive change and enhance the well-being of all individuals and communities we serve.”

The initial phase of the community-based response will prioritise screening for hypertension and diabetes, in line with the Integrated People Centred Health Service approach. As part of the collaboration, AstraZeneca will provide support and resources to enhance the capacity of community health workers, strengthen referral systems, and facilitate access to essential healthcare services. The company’s expertise in pharmaceuticals and healthcare innovation will contribute to the success of the initiative and ultimately bolster health outcomes for individuals affected by non-communicable diseases.

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