Tackling the Multimorbidity Challenge in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is facing a challenge of multimorbidity. Multimorbidity is defined as the concurrent presence of two or more chronic health conditions. The high burden of infectious diseases combined with the growing burden of non-communicable diseases are contributing to multimorbidity in the region.

To tackle this topic, the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) in collaboration with the UK Academy of Medical Sciences co-hosted a two-day workshop in September 2019. The workshop summary report is to be released on 4 February 2020.   

The report titled Improving the prevention and management of multimorbidity in sub-Saharan Africa addresses the workshop objectives which were to review the evidence on the prevention and management of multimorbidity in sub-Saharan Africa, identify key gaps in knowledge and how they might be filled, and discuss research initiatives successfully addressing prevention and management. 

It was made clear at the workshop that multimorbidity research has a crucial role to play not just in providing a clearer picture of regional multimorbidity challenges, but also in identifying the most effective ways to prevent and manage it. The report outlines six research priorities that could provide the first step towards defining a regional research agenda to address these emerging challenges: 

Research priority 1: Trends and patterns
·         Explore opportunities offered by existing cohorts/data sources to generate a clearer picture of local patterns of multimorbidity. 

Research priority 2: Clusters and burden
·         Develop novel approaches to determine the full societal/socioeconomic burden of multimorbidity. 

Research priority 3: Determinants
·         Improve understanding of interactions between non-communicable and infectious diseases.
·         Analyse the role of the social/policy environment (e.g. food and drink regulation). 

Research priority 4: Prevention
·         Promote multidisciplinary approaches, including collaborations with behavioural scientists and health economists. 

Research priority 5: Treatment
·         Develop and evaluate context-specific treatment interventions (including taskshifting interventions). 

Research priority 6: Healthcare systems
·         Promote implementation of evidence-based interventions.
·         Explore potential for greater engagement with traditional healers and other community-based providers. 

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