By Nadege Ngeh
Three years after the CBC Health Services started the Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Program (NCD-PCP) to intentionally beat NCDs some strides have been made. In October 2018, the program undertook a comprehensive and independent evaluation of its system and work thus far as its initial strategic plan from 2016 to 2018 draws to an end. This evaluation comprised in-depth interviews, workshops and focus group discussions with staff and beneficiaries of the program services.
The lead evaluator, Dr. Louis Mbibeh while presenting the preliminary findings of the evaluation said, “The evaluation was an essential part of building the program that has been implemented for two years. What the program has been doing for the past three years since its inception, shows that there were challenges which will always come with every program, but the program will build on the challenges as we forge ahead.”
Dr. Mbibeh explained that the three years were meant to set the base for the program. He said visibility has been assured both nationally and internationally through online presence on social media and the website; the program has also secured media coverage through radio talks & TV shows, newsletters, posters and over twenty-one thousand brochures distributed; and ensured community outreach and screening of over 24,000 people through its ‘Know Your Number’ Program, including advocacy and networking programs.
The lead evaluator also noted that the NCD Prevention and Control Program has adopted a participatory approach to management which is playing a vital role in program development. Testimonies of poverty alleviation and access to healthcare abound from interviews with beneficiaries and community members. Program sustainability needs to be strengthened especially with the steady supply of NCD medications.
“Despite the successes recorded, the program has not been able to meet all its financial needs due to the growing burden of NCDs and the increasing demand for services. There is no national NCD surveillance system in place yet, even though it has been conceived,” said Dr. Mbibeh.
Before 2013, the Director of CBC Health Services, Prof. Tih Pius Muffih, realized from annual reports that a lot of people were coming to health facilities with non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. In this regard, the Director of Health Services put in place a technical reference committee to develop a program that could respond to the rising burden of NCDs in Cameroon through the CBC Health Services.
The NCD Prevention and Control Program was, therefore, born in 2016. The year 2018 makes it three years but according to the Program Manager, Ferdinant Mbiydzenyuy, the program has effectively been implemented for two years.
Mr. Mbiydzenyuy reiterated that the evaluation was an essential aspect of building the program, especially because it has worked essentially for two years to implement the first strategic plan.
“The evaluation will help us to better make use of the opportunities that we have to handle the problem of NCDs in Cameroon in collaboration with [our] stakeholders and partners. It will help us to improve our strategies, to position ourselves not to fall into the same pits… We really thank God for the abilities that he gave us to be able to come this far,” said the NCD Prevention and Control Program Manager.
“As a pioneer, you have to be the one to trail blaze and to clear the roads. And so it is much more difficult when you are starting something new for the people. We, therefore, use this opportunity to take a step behind in other to have a better sprint ahead,” he further remarked.
The number of people dying from and affected by NCDs is on the rise. The World Health Organization (WHO) says, in 2014, NCDs accounted for 31% of annual deaths in Cameroon. In 2016, the number increased to 35%.
Many people affected by hypertension and diabetes hardly notice it given that the NCDs are silent killers. Visible signs and symptoms often occur at chronic stages – in form of stroke, kidney disease, etc. –which could be prevented through proper dieting, physical activity, and controlling sugar, salt, tobacco and alcohol intake.