By Augusta Uchediunor
75% of Nigerians are at risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a nationwide study by WellNewMe, a health technology company, has revealed.
According to the study, the situation needs to be urgently addressed, especially in the present COVID-19 pandemic era, as persons with underlying conditions are most vulnerable to the deadly virus.
Dr Obi Igbokwe, the Co-founder of WellNewMe and author of the pilot report, told newsmen in Lagos on Tuesday that in 2019, the company partnered Novartis to run a year-long pilot to determine Nigerians’ risks for developing chronic diseases.
Igbokwe quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying that the COVID-19 pandemic might have had significant impacts on the health of people with NCDs, such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
According to him, 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.
“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,’’ he said.
Igbokwe, however, said there was still insufficient evidence regarding the number of Nigerians who were at risk of developing NCDs.
This, he said, led to the partnership between Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company and WellNewMe, a health technology company based in Lagos, Nigeria, to run the year-long pilot in determining risk factors amongst adult Nigerians.
“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.
“This is 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,’’ he said.
The report indicated that participants were from all the states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
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.
The results also showed that 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 found 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.