According to the 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the greatest causes of deaths worldwide, mainly due to diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Of Tanzania’s 32 million people, 300,000-350,000 (a prevalence of 2.6%) are living with diabetes; yet, for every diagnosed patient, two or three remain undiagnosed. Although the greatest burden of disease is still attributed to communicable diseases in Tanzania and the greater African Region, Africa is predicted to witness the greatest rise (over a 20% increase) in prevalence and mortality by 2020, due to demographic shifts and lifestyle changes associated with urbanization, including tobacco use, physical inactivity, and excessive eating. By 2030, NCDs are expected to surpass communicable diseases in the African Region as the leading causes of death.
As Tanzania’s Minister of Health, you are obligated to call attention to the marginalizing effects of chronic diseases, particularly on impoverished populations, by addressing the perpetuation of poverty due to economic burdens on the family and country; social inequalities fostered by barriers to quality of care and access to treatment; cultural stigmas heightened by a lack of education; and unrecognized connections of NCDs with infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), which are currently leading causes of mortality in LMIC. One of the most pressing issues involves a shortage of resources, which includes human resources, equipment, and transportation. The lack of funding lies at the heart of these deficiencies. In light of the Ministry’s capacity to financially facilitate health improvement programs in Tanzania, it lacks an effective system of funding allocation to ensure a more even distribution of money towards different communities and health-related issues.
This call to action does not demand that the Ministry of Health shifts its attention away from infectious diseases. Instead, the Ministry should work towards improvement of health opportunities as a whole by balancing health care funding and resources fueled towards these two highly “distinguished” categories of disease. In order to determine specific needs for a system of funding allocation within Tanzania, the Ministry must evaluate the impact of NCDs on the Tanzanian population, identify the roots of current health disparities, and determine the types of programs to support and maximize benefit to the Tanzanian community. Therefore, the government should focus on instating policies that promote research development, collaborative action with influential forces in the country, and strategies to strengthen of health infrastructure, particularly at the regional level.