Lifestyle illnesses shooting down developing economies

  • Botswana the lucky fish in a sea of public health challenges – academic
  • Lifestyle diseases could wipe out humanity, starting with developing world




Visiting academic, Professor Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III last week, highlighted that the interests of stakeholders in public health needs critical thinkers in order for the developing world to stay afloat. Lifestyle diseases have proven to weigh down heavily on family incomes and economies of countries, posing an extinction risk for humanity.


Don emphasised that the profit motive would always rule over actual concern and substantive access towards better public health and health equity. Don, however noted that Botswana is ‘lucky’ to have funds to provide healthcare while most of the developing world has to rely on the Global Fund to augment their needs.


A World Economic Forum study, which was conducted with Harvard School of Public Health, found the cumulative costs of heart diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer and diabetes in poorer countries are expected to top $7 trillion (P72 trillion) in between 2011 and 2025, an average of nearly $500 billion (P5 trillion) a year.


In India with an estimated 65% of the population not having access to basic healthcare, the challenge faced by pharma companies is not just that their products are not being bought enough, but that people do not know enough. Burdened by poverty and social discrimination, most Indians do not have the ‘health-seeking behaviour’ to visit a doctor, get diagnosed and buy the medicines prescribed.


“It is not the fault of the big pharmaceutical companies but the network in which we operate in, that is motivated by profit; the focus is profit,” he said, adding that even retirement pension funds and governments invest heavily in Big Pharma as it is widely referred to.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that 71 per cent of global deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, with 85 per cent occurring in developing and middle income countries, including Botswana. WHO further notes that there will be a projected rise of 27 per cent in deaths from non -communicable diseases in Africa.


It is during the years that people are meant to be at their most productive, earning a living – bringing money home to their families and contributing to economic growth, that they are dying out due to NCDs. The global health body also notes that such diseases are however controllable with the regulation of human habits and food intake; control over alcohol, cigarettes, salts, fats and sugars.


Professor Don said nations should copy interventions from each other giving an example of China which has organised its society in a way that its own methods such as acupuncture are widely accepted in their own country.


Don is known for having led a number of successful international advocacies including global access to pneumonia vaccines, access to milk, and the lobby for a UN-led HIV/AIDS program for the maritime industry, and the global campaign against maritime piracy. His work, which is mostly focused on addressing global inequity particularly in health, has been recognised through a number of international awards.




It is a rare occurrence to see competitors collaborating outside of interactions where they meet with their common industry regulators. But IDM Botswana and Boitekanelo College, both institutions of learning which offer healthcare related programmes, broke the mould last week by co-hosting the Global Health Symposium.


IDM Botswana Country Director, Dr Onalenna Seitio–Kgokgwe explained the decision to work together saying: “IDM and Boitekanelo College are centres of excellence in the field of public health and health education promotion. The two institutions therefore are keen to combine forces and bring together industry experts and thought-leaders to re-sensitize the public about critical issues on global health. We are excited about this partnership with Boitekanelo and hope it will go a long way in promoting the spirit of collaboration as we tackle real life situations in our country.”


Dr Dintle Molosiwa, representing Boitekanelo, added that institutions both recognised that the market they operate in is small and they would achieve much more in terms of health equity, if they worked together.