Changing lifestyles and standards of living are altering the disease landscape in Southern Africa. The World Health Organization states that: “In African nations, non-communicable diseases are rising rapidly and are projected to exceed Communicable, maternal, perinatal, and nutritional diseases as the most common causes of death by 2030”. Incidents of non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancers can rise with improved Economic Development, resulting in an unhealthy, aging population.
Plans of Action
In response to the imminent rise in non-communicable diseases, SADC addresses non-communicable disease monitoring and risks in Article 13 of its Protocol on Health. This Article encourages Member States to “adopt appropriate strategies for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.”
Strategies for Health
One strategy for prevention is SADC Healthy Lifestyles Day, held on the last Friday of February each year. This day was adopted within the framework of the World Health Organization strategy for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases through awareness raising and communication activities. Following this decision, specific well-known global health promotion efforts have been adopted by the World Health Assembly. These efforts promote healthy choices, such as tobacco control, good diet, and physical activity. While most countries of the world have long promoted these activities, they are now growing in importance for citizens of the SADC region.
In line with the World Health Assembly, SADC Member States are encouraged to provide information and education programmes on the following health issues:
- Mental health
- Substance abuse
- Life skills
- Integrated nutrition
- Health promotion
- Peer education
- Reproductive health
- Primary health care
Member States are also encouraged to empower communities with knowledge about healthy lifestyles and nutritious foods. Likewise, they are asked to provide vulnerable communities with the necessary means to overcome non-communicable diseases. To this end, national policies and programmes that promote healthy eating habits, physical health, and well-being should be promulgated and implemented.
Levels of Implementation
Governments and social partners are also expected to continue conducting research activities in order to understand the levels, patterns, and trends of these diseases and their causes at national levels. At the regional level, the SADC Secretariat will continue to coordinate efforts to ensure that measures aimed at preventing and controlling these diseases are consistent across the region. The SADC Secretariat will also continue to monitor progress made by Member States in their efforts to control these diseases at the national level, sharing their successes and challenges with other Member States in an environment of open learning and support.