Interview - president Commonwealth Medical Association - 26/2/2007

link to The Times

Africa facing diseases of poverty and affluence

Africa is currently facing a twin-track disease problem, with people in rural areas facing the risk of infectious diseases while the more affluent city-dwellers suffering from lifestyle diseases, Commonwealth Medical Association president Agyeman Badu Akosa said.

"Africa has the diseases of poverty but also the diseases of affluence. You have a level of starvation among children living in rural Africa as opposed to childhood obesity in urban areas," he said.

This is putting high pressure on the authorities who have to deal with contrasting diseases simultaneously. "You find children who are suffering from chronic malnutrition and exposed to infectious diseases which can kill them as opposed to those who are obese and at risk of other repercussions."

In an interview with The Times, Prof. Akosa voiced concern that chronic diseases, including hypertension, were creeping into rural areas.

"We have a lot of chronic diseases due to poor maternal health. A lot of children of poor mothers end up with chronic debilitating diseases," he said, adding that in Ghana, his homeland, the difference in hypertension prevalence between rural and urban areas was "not striking".

He said the difficulty in rural Africa was that infectious diseases and malnutrition is killing most people, not allowing the problem of non-communicable diseases to come to the surface.

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