Global Health Tuesday: Non-Communicable Diseases, Climate Change and Development in Africa

Alexis Nizigiyimana, a medical doctor in Burundi, founded the Burundi chapter of the Young Professional Chronic Diseases Network. He will discuss the burden of the four top non-communicable diseases in Africa—diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases. He will explore access to essential medicines, the links to climate change, and the way forward. Burundi faces multiple challenges from a history of civil wars, poverty, poor access to education, HIV/AIDS, and a rapid increase of NCSs. Sub-Saharan Africa is also among the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Nizigiyimana is also one of the scholars visiting UW-Madison as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, part of the Young African Leaders Initiative. Fifteen women and 10 men representing 20 countries and professions from health care to law, journalism to public administration, are spending six weeks learning from UW experts, visiting sites and performing community service. The Global Health Institute joins other campus partners, including the African Studies Program, the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Office of Quality Improvement, the Law School and the School of Education to develop academic curriculum.

About non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases  kill 38 million people annually worldwide. Eighty percent of these deaths are primarily premature and occur in low- and middle-income countries where more than 70 percent of the world’s poorest people live and access to integrated primary health care programmes and effective and equitable health care services are limited. Africa is expected to experience the largest increase in NCD-related mortality globally, and NCDs are expected to cause almost half of all mortality in Africa by 2040. As one of the poorest countries, Burundi exemplifies the challenges of addressing NCDs: A history of civil wars, a very low gross domestic product, poor access to education, a history of HIV/AIDS, and a rapid increase of NCDs.

In addition to the NCD challenges, Africa has been identified as one of the parts of the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Climate change projections for sub-Saharan Africa point to a warming trend, particularly in the inland subtropics; frequent occurrence of extreme heat events, increasing aridity and changing rainfall.

With appropriate and timely action, NCDs could have long been contained and the impacts of climate change would have mitigated. The resources and cooperation has not been available for those actions.

About the Young Professional Chronic Diseases Network (YPCDN)

Founded in 2009, YP­CDN, a non­profit organization based in United State, mobilizes a global community of young leaders to take  action against the social injustice driving non­communicable diseases. The organization envisions a a generation of change: a world where all people have the opportunity to lead healthy and productive lives. With 2,500 members in more than 135 countries. YPCDN has hosted events around the world, including at the United Nations High-Level NCD Review, World Health Assembly, the inaugural WHO Global Forum on NCDs, the World Cardiology Congress, the International AIDS Conference, the World Cancer Congress, TEDMED, and more.

The Burundi chapter gives young medical professionals the opportunity to discuss and formulate solutions for the growing NCD burden in Burundi.

Alexis Nizigiyimana

Nizigiiyimana earned his M.D. from the University of Burundi. He is a program manager of Burundi NCD Alliance which is a member of East Africa NCD Alliance and has experience   working with Global NCD Alliance and Danish NCD Alliance. He sits on the board and is founding member of Burundi Heart Foundation, a community-based organization focused on cardiovascular diseases prevention and management. He is also a young research fellow of East African NCD research committee. Previously, he worked in mental health and substance abuse management where he served as program manager. He is also a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Public Management track. He has delivered talks on global health matters at various institutions and conferences, including University of Burundi, East African NexGen workshop, and East African conference. Nizigiyimana is interested in bridging the gaps between global health research, policy and interventions for stronger health systems in African countries and has a particular interest in climate change. He aspires to grow applied skills in public/global health and environment to better understand and respond to the complex determinants of health.