By Josephine Akaerr
The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) as the number one cause of death worldwide, disproportionately affecting people in low and middle income countries. Similarly, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has predicted that NCDs will cost the worldwide economy more than US$47 trillion in lost productivity and wages by 2030.
Through public and private partnerships (PPP’s), these challenges have started to be addressed to ensure that an equitable and inclusive healthcare system is available in the future to respond to the healthcare needs of all Africans.
AstraZeneca’s Country President for African Cluster (South Africa, Sub Sahara and French Speaking Africa) Barbara Nel said “At AstraZeneca we recognise that breakthrough science and healthcare doesn’t happen in isolation, it is the result of collaboration and partnership. Our commitment to our patients and our responsibility to work closely with partners and stakeholders is integral to our work in Africa to create a sustainable impact and to seek answers to health challenges.”
AstraZeneca has been working with governments, policy makers and regulatory bodies in Africa for over 27 years to ensure that more patients in Africa have access to high quality healthcare, from prevention and screening programmes to supporting early intervention, treatment and disease management. This year alone has seen AstraZeneca launch and expand a number of health access programmes that span non- communicable diseases in several African countries.
The first of our new initiatives, Africa PUMUA Initiative (breathe) addresses one of the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – asthma.
Through partnership with governments, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and health societies in Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana, the Africa PUMUA Initiative aims to improve paediatric and adult asthma management across the public and private sectors. It focuses on local health system strengthening, health worker capacity building, awareness and education activities and equitable access to AstraZeneca’s respiratory medicines for patients.
In addition, in South Africa, AstraZeneca has joined forces with the National Department of Health (NDoH) to shape the new and innovative National NCD screening programme. As part of the partnership, AstraZeneca donated 10,000 electronic blood pressure (BP) machines, which will be used by healthcare workers in under-resourced communities. The programme supports the vision of taking healthcare to the communities; utilising community healthcare workers to bring primary care closer to patients, enabling earlier access to screening and diagnosis.
AstraZeneca’s Phakamisa (uplift) initiative, launched 10 years ago, brings together different organisations to help reduce the burden of NCDs on South Africa’s public healthcare system, currently focusing on breast and prostate cancer. Despite many gains in cancer research and treatment in recent years, breast and prostate cancer remain a growing health concern, compounded through cultural barriers, limited access to healthcare facilities and late diagnosis. This year AstraZeneca has expanded the initiative through partnerships with multiple healthcare stakeholders.
Through strong collaboration between community, civil society, government and private entities, Phakamisa aims to improve breast and prostate cancer management in the public sector and specifically support patients in the early detection of disease, through our three-pillared approach of training, awareness and access.
Disease prevention is another critical pillar of our access to healthcare work and part of our approach to supporting the development of sustainable health systems. Our Young Health Programme is a philanthropically funded disease prevention initiative focused on NCDs and young people aged 10 to 24 in vulnerable and under-resourced areas around the world. Together with our partners, the Young Health Programme uses education, advocacy, research and mentorship to empower young people to make informed health choices and build more protective environments to help live longer and healthier lives. In Africa, the programme was launched in Nairobi, Kenya in 2016, in partnership with Plan International and has just been renewed for another 5 years.
This year the Young Health Programme expanded to South Africa and Angola, partnering with UNICEF with the aim of contributing to the global goal to reach more than five million young people with NCD prevention messages, training 1,000 youth advocates, and positively shaping public policy around the world, over the next five years.
Healthy Heart Africa is AstraZeneca’s innovative programme committed to tackling hypertension and the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) across Africa. Since launching in Kenya six years ago and subsequently expanding to Ethiopia in 2016, Tanzania in 2018, Ghana in 2019 and Uganda in 2020, HHA has conducted over 16 million blood pressure screenings in the community and in healthcare facilities; trained over 7,300 healthcare workers to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment services for hypertension; activated over 800 healthcare facilities in Africa to provide hypertension services, with the establishment of secure supply chains for low cost, high-quality branded antihypertensive medicines where applicable, and identified over 2.9 million elevated blood pressure readings.
Barbara Nel: “The various partnerships and initiatives introduced and expanded this year are testament to AstraZeneca’s commitment to working together with diverse healthcare stakeholders to shape the future of healthcare in Africa. At AstraZeneca we wish to be part of the healthcare solution, for the benefit of all patients.”