By Annonciata Byukusenge
Community awareness about Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and infectious diseases is crucial for their management. To keep their population healthy, countries need to have the capacity to do early detection, prevention, care and treatment. To raise awareness, is crucial for the effective management of these diseases, and for that, we must leverage multiple strategies and know the prevalence and the statistics that highlight the impact of these diseases.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and infectious diseases are increasing, but some people do not have enough information about these diseases and how to prevent them. But there are measures taken to have enough information, as Prof Binagwaho Agnes highlighted in this story and she mentioned that they organized Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA), in order to have the same understanding of leaders across the continent to showcase new and exciting scientific discoveries while advancing programs and policies to create more resilient health systems CPHIA 2023.
She underlined that the firstly, it’s essential to know the latest statistics locally, regionally on the continent and globally.
“We need to engage local leaders and community influencers to inform them and to convince them to contribute to the dissemination of this information and how to prevent the disease and to seek care and treatment if sick in the communities they lead. Leaders to engage are different according to region. In Africa, for example, where community structures often play a significant role, working with traditional leaders is very important. All over the world when they exist religious figures and local influencers are highly effective. For example, in a study conducted in Nigeria, it was found that using community leaders as advocates increased awareness and acceptance of NTD interventions by 44% (source: WHO).”
Prof Binagwaho said.
She added that utilizing mass media campaigns can reach a broader audience. In Nigeria, a radio campaign to raise awareness about NTDs led to a 43% increase in the number of people who knew how to prevent them (source: Journal of Global Health).
“Moreover, community-based education programs have be tailored to local languages and cultures. In Ghana, community health workers educated villagers about schistosomiasis, leading to a significant decrease in infection rates by 76% (source: PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases).”
It is important to collaborate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international agencies can further bolster awareness efforts. For instance, partnerships with organizations like the Carter Center have contributed to the near-elimination of Guinea worm disease in Africa, down from 3.5 million cases in the 1980s to just 27 cases in 2020 (source: The Carter Center).
A multi-pronged approach involving community leaders, mass media, community-based education, and national and international partnerships can significantly raise awareness about NTDs and infectious diseases, leading to improved prevention and control.
According to the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), the most common NTDs in Rwanda are; intestinal worms (affecting 41 per cent of Rwandans, with a 48 per cent prevalence in adults), bilharzia/ schistosomiasis (1,000 cases), podoconiosis (about 6,000 cases annually), scabies (100,000 cases), taeniasis (3,000 cases), cysticercosis, rabies from dog bites (1,000 cases).
How is CPHIA 2023 Breaking Barriers and Repositioning Africa in the global health architecture?
The Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA) 2023 is poised to play a transformative role in breaking barriers and repositioning Africa in the global health architecture. Here’s how:
● Knowledge Sharing: CPHIA serves as a platform for experts, policymakers, practitioners, and stakeholders to share cutting-edge research, best practices, and innovative solutions. By fostering knowledge exchange, CPHIA contributes to evidence-based policymaking and improves service demand, service uptake and service delivery.
● Capacity Building: CPHIA provides opportunities for capacity building through workshops, seminars, and training sessions. Building the capacity of African healthcare professionals and researchers strengthens the continent’s ability to address health challenges independently.
● Global Collaboration: CPHIA promotes international collaboration and networking by bringing together experts and partners from around the world. Collaborative efforts are essential for tackling global health issues, including infectious diseases and NTDs.
● Policy Advocacy: The conference serves as a platform for advocating policies that prioritize public health in Africa. Evidence-based policy recommendations generated at CPHIA can influence national and international health agendas. This is facilitated by the participation of policymakers, academic and community leaders.
● Innovation Showcase: CPHIA showcases innovative technologies and approaches in public health. Innovations such as mobile health solutions and telemedicine can bridge healthcare gaps in rural and underserved areas.
● Community Engagement: CPHIA encourages community engagement and participatory approaches to public health. Involving communities in decision-making and implementation improves the relevance and impact of interventions.
● Youth Involvement: CPHIA recognizes the importance of involving youth in public health initiatives. Engaging the younger generation ensures continuity and fresh perspectives in addressing health challenges.
● Data-driven Decision-making: CPHIA emphasizes the importance of data in public health. Data-driven decision-making is key to understanding disease dynamics and designing effective interventions.
● Advocacy for Resources: The conference advocates for increased resources for public health in Africa. Adequate funding is crucial for implementing comprehensive health programs, including those targeting NTDs and infectious diseases.
● Gender equity is also promoted across all subsectors of the health and community sectors.
CPHIA 2023 is breaking barriers by facilitating knowledge sharing, capacity building, global, regional and local collaboration, policy advocacy, innovation, community engagement, youth involvement, data-driven decision making, and resource mobilization. By doing so, CPHIA is repositioning Africa as a key player in the global health landscape, capable of addressing complex health challenges, including infectious diseases and NTDs, with resilience and innovation. Prof. Agnes Binagwaho