Dr. Obi Igbokwe, Co-Founder of WellNewMe and Author of Pilot Report

75 Percent Nigerians at risk of non-communicable diseases, says Report

Emmanuel Akosile | ConsumerConnect

As the nation is currently battling to contain further spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, three quarters of Nigerians are at the risk of contracting non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a nationwide study by WellNewMe, a health technology company, has revealed.

The study recommends that the situation needs to be addressed urgently, particularly in the present COVID-19 pandemic era, as persons with underlying conditions are most vulnerable to the deadly virus, says agency report.

Dr. Obi Igbokwe, Co-founder of WellNewMe and author of the pilot report, disclosed to the media Tuesday, June 30, in Lagos, that the company partnered with Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company, to run a year-long pilot to determine Nigerians’ risks for developing chronic diseases in 2019.

Igbokwe quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO), that the COVID-19 pandemic might have had significant impacts on the health of Nigerians with NCDs, such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Recognising that NCDs, such as hypertension, are largely driven by exposure to risk factors related to human behaviour and genetics, WellNewMe has designed an algorithm-based health risk assessment platform, he stated.

The health expert said: “The platform encompasses psychological, physical and social domains, which are known to influence NCD risk and prognosis in cases of established diseases.

“It incorporates the ability of healthcare providers (HCPs) to standardise their approach to cardiovascular disease management by using an algorithmic process and harnessing relevant data to ensure a set of potential outputs, which result in better outcomes for the patient.

“The results of the pilot, which were released on June 26, revealed that a total of 1,900 people were enrolled for the pilot, while 1,269 of them completed the assessment as part of the pilot.’’

However, he observed that there is still insufficient evidence regarding the number of the population who were at risk of developing NCDs.

“Being a global leader in the cardiovascular healthcare space, Novartis is mobilising the set up of these cardiovascular risk assessment stations at various pharmacies across the country with the aim of reaching a thousand patients.

“The report of the pilot, while not extensive, does lend importance to considerations by the Nigerian health authorities when designing the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that they need factor in NCDs as well,” said Igbokwe.

He further said that “as patients with chronic diseases are at greater risk of the coronavirus; that, in itself, presents an extra burden on our already struggling health services across the country.

“It is also of great importance that even when the pandemic has passed, we will still have to deal with the burden of tackling these chronic diseases, which by all accounts are here to stay.’’

In the study, which the participants were from all the states of the Nigerian Federation, including Abuja, FCT, three quarters of those who completed the assessment were found to have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, with men more at risk than women.

It was also found that risk increased as the age increased, with those aged 50 and above having increased risks.

Women were said to be more at risk than men for developing hypertension, while the risk increased as the age of the pilot enrolee increased.

With diabetes, it was discovered that almost three quarters of those assessed had an increased risk of having diabetes, with 10 percent having high risk and men more at risk than women.

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