Expand expertise and capacity to monitor and prevent NCDs
Chronic diseases account for 20% of deaths in Tanzania, and that rate is expected to increase by 33% over the next decade. Long a pioneer in Africa in infectious disease surveillance, Tanzania’s National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) recognizes the growing burden of these noncommunicable conditions, many of which are preventable, and is laying the groundwork for a sustainable control effort.
IANPHI’s efforts—and good timing—kick-started the project, which is now underway on several levels. A first step is determining what chronic diseases are most common and obtaining other information that can form the basis of prevention programs. NIMR is conducting a facility-based assessment in two communities, and IANPHI is supporting evaluation of that effort, laying the groundwork for establishment of a science-based national program. IANPHI's grant included funding for two NCD-focused fellows in the Tanzania Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, and the U.S. CDC has developed a model curriculum for NCD-focused training. AFENET and the University of Copenhagen are providing training at the community level. IANPHI is funding district and regional surveillance and, with the U.S. CDC, analysis of vital statistics. NIMR leaders expect to gain valuable experience through this project that can be applied to other NPHIs hoping to add NCD functions.
A key challenge is the capacity to collect data on chronic diseases and risk factors that governments need to set priorities and evaluate programs. Science-based planning increases the likelihood of successful disease control and enhances the ability to generate funding and sustain programs. IANPHI is filling this gap by providing peer assistance and limited financial resources for Tanzania to expand its expertise and capacity in the field of noncommunicable diseases.
The IANPHI grant includes funds for the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (through NIMR) to evaluate legislation in relation to NCDs including analysis of government policies (such as on tobacco use) that contribute to or work against high rates of noncommunicable diseases. THL, the IANPHI member institute in Finland, is providing technical assistance and support and has hosted several leaders from NIMR and the MoHSW.
Since initiation of this NPHI development project, enthusiasm for conducting noncommunicable disease surveillance and control in Tanzania has continued to grow. The result is an expanded IANPHI project, with longer-term support to NIMR and partners.
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Notes from the Field
Assoc. Prof. Tiina Laatikainen (center) has provided extensive technical support to all aspects of the surveillance, has helped supervise an NIMR student working on a master’s degree on NCDs at the University of Bergen in Norway, and assists NIMR scientists in getting their NCD work published.