Non-communicable diseases in Ethiopia: policy and strategy gaps in the reduction of behavioral risk factors

Abstract

Introduction: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide. Over 80% of NCD deaths occur in developing countries. Four modifiable behaviors, namely tobacco use, consumption of unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and the harmful use of alcohol, contribute to 80% of the NCD burden. Studies show that the vast majority of NCDs can be prevented through behavioral risk-reduction interventions. Properly executed, the interventions could lead to a decrease in the burden of NCDs, ranging from a 30% drop in the prevalence of cancer to a 75% reduction in cardiovascular diseases. This study examined the policy and strategy gaps in the reduction of the modifiable NCD behavioral risk factors in Ethiopia to inform and guide policy-makers and other stakeholders. Methodology: This study used a data triangulation methodology with a sequential, explanatory, mixed-method design conducted in two stages. The authors carried out quantitative analysis on the prevalence and distribution of behavioral risk factors from the Ethiopia NCD STEPwise approach to surveillance (STEPS) survey. Qualitative data on national policies and strategies complemented the analysis of the progress made so far and the existing gaps. Results and Discussion: Ethiopia has made substantial progress in responding to the NCD epidemic by developing a health sector NCD strategic action plan, generating evidence, and setting time-bound national targets on NCD behavioral risk factors. Activities mainly aimed at reducing tobacco use, such as implementation of the ratified WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), using evidence of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), and the articulation of legislative measures are ongoing. On this paper our analysis reveals policy and strategy gaps, status in law enforcement, social mobilization, and awareness creation to reduce the major behavioral risk factors. Conclusions: NCDs share common risk factors and risk reduction strategies creates an opportunity for an effective response. However, the national response still needs more effort to have a sufficient impact on the prevention of NCDs in Ethiopia. Thus, there is an urgent need for the country to develop and implement targeted strategies for each behavioral risk factor and design functional, multisectoral coordination. There is also a need for establishing sustainable financial mechanisms, such as increasing program budgets and levying ‘sin taxes,’ to support the NCD prevention and control program. Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2019; 33(4):259-268] Key words: NCDs, behavioral risk factors, policy, strategy, multisectoral coordination, Ethiopia
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