A global framework for action to improve the primary care response to chronic non-communicable diseases: a solution to a neglected problem

Maher, Dermot; Harries, Anthony D.; Zachariah, Rony; Enarson, Don
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9 Issue 1, p355
Academic Journal
Background: Although in developing countries the burden of morbidity and mortality due to infectious diseases has often overshadowed that due to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), there is evidence now of a shift of attention to NCDs. Discussion: Decreasing the chronic NCD burden requires a two-pronged approach: implementation of the multisectoral policies aimed at decreasing population-level risks for NCDs, and effective and affordable delivery of primary care interventions for patients with chronic NCDs. The primary care response to common NCDs is often unstructured and inadequate. We therefore propose a programmatic, standardized approach to the delivery of primary care interventions for patients with NCDs, with a focus on hypertension, diabetes mellitus, chronic airflow obstruction, and obesity. The benefits of this approach will extend to patients with related conditions, e.g. those with chronic kidney disease caused by hypertension or diabetes. This framework for a "public health approach" is informed by experience of scaling up interventions for chronic infectious diseases (tuberculosis and HIV). The lessons learned from progress in rolling out these interventions include the importance of gaining political commitment, developing a robust strategy, delivering standardised interventions, and ensuring rigorous monitoring and evaluation of progress towards defined targets. The goal of the framework is to reduce the burden of morbidity, disability and premature mortality related to NCDs through a primary care strategy which has three elements: 1) identify and address modifiable risk factors, 2) screen for common NCDs and 3) and diagnose, treat and follow-up patients with common NCDs using standard protocols. The proposed framework for NCDs borrows the same elements as those developed for tuberculosis control, comprising a goal, strategy and targets for NCD control, a package of interventions for quality care, key operations for national implementation of these interventions (political commitment, case-finding among people attending primary care services, standardised diagnostic and treatment protocols, regular drug supply, and systematic monitoring and evaluation), and indicators to measure progress towards increasing the impact of primary care interventions on chronic NCDs. The framework needs evaluation, then adaptation in different settings. Summary: A framework for a programmatic "public health approach" has the potential to improve on the current unstructured approach to primary care of people with chronic NCDs. Research to establish the cost, value and feasibility of implementing the framework will pave the way for international support to extend the benefit of this approach to the millions of people worldwide with chronic NCDs.


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