Welcome to the module Epidemiology and Control of Chronic Diseases (Non Communicable Diseases). The terms “chronic diseases” and “non-communicable diseases” are often used interchangeably to refer to the group of long term diseases, or health conditions, that include diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organisations promotes the term “Chronic diseases” as a label for this group of diseases, hence the use of both terms in the title of this course.
Chronic diseases are emerging as an urgent public health problem globally, and becoming a major cause of early death and disability worldwide. This is probably due to the fact that over the past few decades there has been a decline in mortality levels, which may be attributed to the decrease in infant mortality rates, improved control of infectious diseases through increases in immunization coverage and improvement in access to health services. These changes have led to a shift from diseases that were associated with under-development, including nutritional, peri-natal and infectious diseases, to those hitherto characterized as “diseases of affluence” such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Poor and the young populations are now also often affected. The incidence of the diseases at ever younger ages means that these populations carry the burden of chronic diseases for a longer time. This puts enormous economic strain on the family, community, and society as a whole.
Improved understanding of the risk factors associated with the development of chronic diseases introduces the possibility of preventing death and disability associated with chronic diseases. There is therefore a need to build the capacity of health workers about these conditions so that they can plan and implement interventions that help to reduce the burden associated with chronic diseases.
This module is designed to develop sound understanding of epidemiological concepts and principles and practical skills required for decision making and programme development aimed at primary prevention of chronic diseases and control of disease. The module does not set out to develop a knowledge of “facts” about particular diseases; rather, it provides strategies for examining existing diseases in your area. You can learn the specifics of particular conditions through the wide range of resources provided in the readings. And although chronic diseases come in many different forms, the ones we will examine particularly are those like diabetes and hypertension; these have risk factors linked to the life conditions – personal, social, environmental and
cultural – of the sufferer, and hence provide the greatest scope for preventative interventions to forestall illness.
The module is divided into three units:
Unit 1 introduces the concepts and practice of epidemiology; the unit will provide studies, in the form of readings, mapping the incidence of chronic disease in populations in the world. In this unit you will also look at the risk factors for chronic diseases, and the cost on individuals, families and economies.
Unit 2 explores chronic disease prevention and management strategies. The focus in this unit is on intervention at smaller and individual scales.
Unit 3, which is also the final unit, discusses prevention and management of chronic diseases on a population basis. The Public Health approach provides a unifying framework.
This Module Guide is accompanied by a Reader folder which contains the required readings for the module. These are the readings that appear in the “Readings” list in each session. You are strongly advised to make use of your Reader; the module accomplishes teaching of the subject through the Module Guide and Reader.
We would like you to offer us feedback on this Module – please tell us both the things you liked about it, and the things you did not. Your feedback in this regard will help us when we revise the module. As you go through the module, why don’t you keep a notebook – or attach some paper to the Module Guide – and write your comments on there as you read through the module, and as comments occur to you. That way, when it comes to evaluating the module at semester’s end, you will remember your reactions more accurately and easily.
We hope your studies will be fulfilling, and that you will engage actively with the study material to improve your own practice.