I have now been in Uganda for about a month and each encounter with a new person is always met with surprise when I explain what I am doing here. “Are non-communicable diseases (NCDs) even a problem in Uganda?” The answer is a resounding yes! One quarter of Ugandan deaths are attributable to NCDs, and the burden continues to grow. Conversations with doctors and nurses have highlighted several pressing NCD concerns:
- Awareness needs to be raised about the high burden of NCDs
- There is a need for equipment and practitioner training for screening and management of NCDs
- Perpetual time and human resource constraints are a barrier
The Uganda delegation formed the Uganda Initiative for the Integrated Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (UINCD), a non-profit organization geared toward capacity building of health workers and the integrated care of NCDs. Now entering its second year, UINCD is working toward piloting an NCD integrated management clinic in Mulago Hospital, the national referral hospital located in Kampala. As progress is made on the research for an NCD integrated management pilot clinic, the GHLI forum is slated for October as a way to revisit and move forward with the UINCD agenda.
In addition to welcoming me to the project, one delegation member invited me to see his village. To reach this village, we traveled through over 100 km of farmland covered with tea plants, sugarcane, maize, and a type of banana tree called matoke. Every couple kilometers, we were greeted by people who wait along the road to sell produce such as mangoes, tomatoes and grilled sweet bananas called gonja, roasted meats, and sodas. The visit provided an illustration of the contrasting features of a modernizing Uganda. The lack of electricity and running water in many places, education for only some, showed why communicable diseases have continuously been the focus. This is juxtaposed with an increase in Western influences and the rise of bigger cities leading to a double burden of disease.