The choice of theme for this year's celebrations of World Health Day "High Blood Pressure" is most exciting because Cardiovascular ailments are the major one causes of death Globally, they account for about 17 million deaths in the world each year. Complications of high blood pressure, also called hypertension or BP for short account for more than nine million of these deaths including about half of all deaths from heart disease and stroke.
One in three adults worldwide has high blood
pressure. This proportion increases with age, from one in 10 people in
their 20s and 30s to five to ten people in their 50s.; This makes it
imperative that appropriate and accessible preventive healthcare
services are put in place to help reduce health risks to this segment of
society especially those associated with hypertension. This is against
the background that old age and health are key challenges in the yet
to be implemented National Ageing Policy.
Absolute numbers of older
people, that is those 60 years and above have been increasing rapidly in
recent times due mainly to improved health care which has translated
into increasing life expectancy. The greatest beneficiaries being women
who now enjoy life expectancy above 60 years. High blood pressure
increases the risk of heart attacks, stroke and kidney failure. If left
uncontrolled, it can also cause blindness, irregularities of the heart
beat and heart failure.
There is a social cost to this problem too,
millions of people forgo seeking care for high blood pressure in the
early stages because they cannot afford it. This results in early
deaths, disability, personal and household disruption, loss of income, a
diminished work force and high medical care expenditures. Older people
will benefit a lot if appropriate and accessible preventive and
curative healthcare measures are put in place. This will help reduce
health risks including those associated with hypertension, given the
fact that old age and health are challenges in the yet to be implemented
National Ageing Policy.
This makes it imperative for the Ministry of
Health and appropriate institutions to intensify health promotion
programmes aimed at reducing occurrence of preventable diseases. One
priority area should be early detection and treatment of high blood
pressure along with public polices and primary health care services that
educate and support people to prevent them from developing high blood
pressure. Those who have developed the disease must be helped to manage
it effectively. The offices of the National health Insurance Scheme
owe it a responsibility to embark on community awareness campaigns to
increase the understanding of the rights and entitlements enshrined
under the National health Insurance Act, Act 852 its benefits and the
process of accessing these. Particular efforts should be made to
package the awareness messages in a form that would be easier for older
people especially women to understand. The age of exemption form the
payment of premium should be reduced from 70 years to 60 to improve
enrolment of non-SSNIT Pensioners on the scheme.
The fact that majority
of older persons are not on a pension scheme means that many older
people below age 70 are being partially denied the opportunity to enroll
on the National Health Insurance Scheme due to Financial Constraints.
Government should therefore heed to recommendations in the AU Policy
Framework and Plan of Action on Ageing which requires member states to
develop and review health budgets to ensure that adequate funding is
devoted to the provision of older people taking into account their
higher per capita requirement. It will also be prudent if benefit
packages under the scheme are made more relevant to the health care
needs of older people.
The general window opened for the use of the
fund under sections of the Act establishing the scheme should be
invested in improving the capacity of health professionals to provide
geriatric medical services under the scheme. Section 30 (3) partially
mandates the National Health Insurance Authority to assess benefit
packages under the scheme every six months and advice the sector
Minister accordingly. Some diseases to consider in expanding health
care services under the NHIS for older people include urine retention,
eye care, colon cancer, prostate cancer and Ear-Nose and Throat
Health data should be disaggregated by age to include people
above sixty years. This will ensure ready availability of data to at
least monitor changes in the health care needs of older people. We need
to use the celebration of World Health Day this year to advance the
cause of the aged because they have paid their dues to the motherland.
It would therefore be at the height of ingratitude to allow older people
to die from preventable ailments like hypertension.
BY JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST