While non-communicable diseases are the leading causes of death globally, many people do not know what non-communicable diseases (NCDs)are. But mention cancer or diabetes, you will be surprised how people know about these diseases. According to the WHO Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases are diseases that cannot be passed from one person to another and tend to be of long duration. They are a result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors. It is reported that NCDs kill about 41 million people annually representing 74% of all deaths globally. Low- and middle-income countries bear the greatest brunt of NCDs with about 77% of all NCD deaths. NCDs have several risk factors including diet and lack of physical exercise among others. The main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and mental illness.
Oduor Kevin’s Work (Practical Projects)
Oduor Kevin is a public health specialist serving as the Chief Programs Officer at Stowelink. As an NCD advocate, Oduor has immersed himself in NCD projects and programs at Stowelink and with other organizations he works for on part-time as a consultant. At Stowelink, Oduor has led a number of NCD-related projects including the Drug-Free Youth, IPAB, the NCD 365 Project, and the NCD and Climate Change Project among others. In the Drug-Free Youth project, Oduor led his team to create awareness of the link between drugs and substance abuse and NCDs. Harmful use of alcohol and tobacco use are among the risk factors for NCDs. Oduor targeted young people in learning institutions specifically Universities to sensitize them on the dangers of indulging in drug and substance abuse. Utilizing the Health Belief Model to induce behavior change among the project beneficiaries, Oduor helped the participants to gain a wealth of knowledge on their susceptibility to drugs and substances, the risks arising from their use, the perceived barriers to avoiding drugs and substances abuse, the health benefits that can be accrued from avoiding the drugs and the cues to action.
In the IPAB project, Oduor worked with NCD advocates in Vihiga Kenya to petition Vihiga county Government to Increase Priority, Attention, and Budget allocation for NCDs. Together with his team drawn from Stowelink, he led the formation of Vihiga County NCD Chapter. The chapter has become a useful outfit through which People Living with NCDs voice their concerns and present their grievances to the Vihiga County NCDs department. Long after the project was completed in 2021, the legacy still lives on even as the chapter continues with NCD advocacy endeavors.
Perhaps, the NCDs365 is the most groundbreaking work on NCD Oduor has steered. In the advent of COVID-19, when everything was halted by the pandemic, Oduor did not stop. He seized the opportunity, together with his colleagues at Stowelink, to leverage social media to create awareness of NCDs and their link to COVID-19. With pre-developed, curated, simple, and relevant messages on NCDs, Oduor shared this across his organizations and personal social media platforms. The project attracted over 17 organizations that partnered with his organization to amplify the reach/impact. In total, this project reached over 4.8 million people online across Africa.
With climate change taking its toll, Oduor has identified the next frontier as far as NCD advocacy is concerned. The Global NCD Alliance observes that NCDs and climate change are intrinsically linked and can be addressed in tandem. Oduor is leading the implementation of an NCD and Climate Change at his organization with support from AstraZeneca and the Non-Communicable Diseases Alliance of Kenya (NCDAK). Oduor is working with registered youth groups in Githurai, Nairobi to identify some of the environmental activities (e.g education, awareness creation, and planting of trees among others) that can immensely contribute to combating the detrimental health effect of climate change especially on NCDs.
Trans Fats Elimination Campaign
Trans fat or trans-fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids that come from either natural or industrial sources. Industrial Trans Fatty Acids (iTFA) are types of unsaturated fat created by adding hydrogen to oil. Trans fats, whether naturally occurring or industrially produced, have no known health benefits and are a major cardiovascular disease contributor. The WHO estimates that about 540, 000 death occur annually as a result of trans fats.
The International Institute for Legislative Affairs (IILA) is running a campaign on Trans-fat elimination in East Africa. Oduor Kevin is among the digital advocates at IILA who are leading the campaign by creating awareness of the cardiovascular health effects of Trans Fats and petitioning governments across East African Countries to regulate Trans Fats and adopt the REPLACE Package by the WHO. Oduor is concerned that the deadline for achieving a Trans-fat free society (2023) is lapsing yet many countries have not put in place the necessary policies to limit Trans fats.
Besides practical projects, Oduor is immersed in NCDs related research work. Oduor strongly believes that one can only improve what they can measure. As the world undergo epidemiological transition, from communicable disease to NCDs, Oduor believes that research is/will be very vital in demystifying NCDs and gain a deeper understanding on how to address them. With mental health problems and climate change taking a toll, cutting edge research will be crucial in coming up with innovative ways of addressing the imminent dangers they pose. As digital public health continues to mature, virtual health solutions for NCDs will be possible. But all these must be preceded by research.
Do not be mistaken. Oduor is not just speaking research or wish for a future utopia when NCDs will have been put under control. He is immersed in NCD-related research. He has published 5 research articles on NCDs and digital health. Oduor has presented his research findings at local and international conferences including the 13th KASH Conference and the 5th Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Conference. For him, research is a vital tool for development.