Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) kill 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 69, and over 86 percent of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. The economic impact, including loss of income by people harmed by NCDs, the costs of treatment, and the impacts on families threaten international development. Through regulation and fiscal reforms, countries can promote healthy diets, physical activity, and other initiatives reducing the prevalence and harms of NCDs.
In Uganda alone, NCDs are estimated to account for 33% of the country’s annual deaths. According to the Parliamentary Forum on Non-communicable diseases, the number of Ugandans living with NCDs has been increasing dramatically and the probability of one dying between 30 and 70 years from NCDs is 21%. The mortality rate has been primarily attributed to cardiovascular disease and cancer, along with underlying risk factors of hypertension, tobacco use, and alcohol. A nationally representative household survey conducted in 2014 revealed that nearly 80% of Ugandans diagnosed with NCDs were unaware of their own health status. NCDs cost individuals and the state highly, for instance in 2012/13 alone, UGX 2.5 billion was spent on open surgery and cardiac catheterization of only 2% of the patients at the Uganda Cancer Institute
IDLO, the World Health Organization and the International Development Research Centre are implementing the Global RECAP Program. The overall aim is to strengthen capacity of countries to promote healthy diets and increase physical activity for the prevention of NCDs. Five countries have agreed to participate in the first phase of the program: Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. Program activities will focus on capacity building for more effective regulatory and fiscal interventions, supporting the development and use of relevant research, and convening multi-stakeholder dialogues and collaboration between civil society, academia, and government stakeholders. The Global RECAP Program is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the OPEC Fund for International Development.
To reduce dietary risk factors, the World Health Organization recommends several “best buy” interventions such as limiting salt and sugar intake and implementing front-of-pack labelling and taxation on sugar-sweetened beverages. At the national level, additional efforts aimed at addressing NCDs include the development of a Multisectoral Health Plan for NCDs and several collaborations with local and global NGOs and development partners who support the government in developing trainings, implementing public awareness on NCDs and their risk factors, and strengthening the capacity of the health system to prevent and manage NCDs.
According to a report of the Needs Assessment conducted prior to commencement of implementation of the RECAP Project, it was noted that the government of Uganda has made some efforts towards prevention of NCDs however there has been limited multi-sectoral collaboration and participation to tackle this problem. In addition, there are also limitations in cross-sectional knowledge, for example there is limited collaboration between law and public health sectors to develop understanding of the role of law in public health and there is limited public awareness on the same.
The Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) with support from International Development Law Organization (IDLO), is implementing a sub-project on advocacy under the Global RECAP to promote healthy diets through legal empowerment and social accountability mechanisms, using human rights-based approach, participatory, and multi-sectoral approach. This subproject is targeted towards strengthened human rights-based initiatives and community education to support regulatory and fiscal measures that promote healthy diets in Uganda.