In this interview with MOTUNRAYO JOEL, Africa’s first in-coming Vice-President, World Heart Federation, Geneva, and former Vice-President, Nigeria Heart Foundation, Dr. Kingsley Akinroye, speaks on the future of heart health care in Nigeria among other issues
As the in-coming Vice-President of World Heart Federation, what will be the key areas of focus during your tenure?
During my tenure as vice-president of the federation and first from Africa since the inception of the organisation in 1952, I would ensure the focus on low-income countries in the reduction of illness and death from heart-related diseases through prevention and care. I will emphasise this in every country by ensuring the active involvement of governments, private sectors, non-governmental organisations and the academia. Besides, the key to the reduction of heart disease are population adoption of positive lifestyles, reduction of salt-intake, low- smoking of tobacco, increase in physical activity, increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables and low alcohol intake. As I work with the foundation in each country and other stakeholders, with government at all levels involved, the promotion of above lifestyles would be followed along with the target set for each country.
The World Heart Federation is dedicated to leading the global fight against cardiovascular disease – including heart disease and stroke – with a focus on low and middle income countries through a united community of more than 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries. As the number one NGO partner with World Health Organisation in cardiovascular diseases, it is committed to the target by reducing premature death from heart disease and stroke to 25 per cent in 2025. The federation does not offer treatment directly but advocates for appropriate care and treatment for heart diseases. The services include providing global leadership and advocacy through research, setting targets for reduction of risk factors and working with national and international agencies to achieve its goals. It also partners with pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies to achieve national targets on treatment and care.
What area is the organisation focusing more on?
The United Nations held a special summit in New York in 2011 and it focused on non-communicable diseases specifically heart disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus and chronic lung disease. It identified them as the main killer diseases from 2015. Funding was a major highlight of the fight against these killer diseases and a major agreement was the need for each country to increase budget allocation and also involvement of major donors. For sustainability and progress at country levels, the government must include heart disease prevention and care in the country plan and also make special increase budget allocation for successful implementation of the plan.
Did the organisation get support from the private sector and the Federal Government when you were the President of the federation in Nigeria?
The Nigerian Heart Foundation, like all the National Heart Foundations in Africa, does not receive financial support from governments. But it receives support from the private sector.
Do you think Nigeria is in line with other countries in terms of heart health care?
I do not think so. Nigeria is behind most developed countries like Finland, China, Japan, United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Even in Africa, both in the area of prevention of heart disease and care of heart health, Nigeria is behind South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, India, Uganda and Egypt.
How can the country address the problem?
The country needs to have a functioning national policy on cardiovascular disease as part of the national non-communicable disease plan, with emphasis on targets for reduction of the risk factors for heart disease. This will be in line with the provisions of the World Health Organisation. Also, there must be strategic focus on heart care, rehabilitation and care. Nigeria must establish a national heart centre for care and research.
What is responsible for heart-related deaths in Nigeria?
Over the last two decades, there has been an increase in the Nigerian population of negative lifestyles like increase in salt intake, increase in fast-food outlets, reduction in physical activity, increase in obesity, smoking of cigarette, alcohol intake including high cost of drugs for controlling high-blood pressure.
Is there a link between stress and heart disease?
Stress is a recognised risk factor for promotion and worsening of heart disease.
How can Nigerians prevent heart-related diseases?
Nigerians need more information about heart disease. The level of awareness is still very low among them despite the fact that the Nigeria Heart Foundation has been in existence for almost 25 years promoting awareness of heart disease. There is need for more actors, including governments, private sectors and NGOs to promote awareness in this regard. Prevention of heart disease involves focusing on the risk factors at individual, family, corporate and government levels.
What do you envisage for the future of Nigeria’s health care industry?
Globally, there is a wide recognition of collaboration between government, private and public sectors in effectively driving the healthcare industry. Nigeria will need to strategically be a major participant in this global movement to achieve a significant shift in its current status of health in 2025.
What is your five-year target?
A global monitoring framework for CVD has recently been adopted, it is expected that across all countries by 2025, through strategies on prevention, control and care, there will be 25 per cent reduction in death and disability from heart disease and stroke.