Opportunities and challenges for delivering non-communicable disease management and services in fragile and post-conflict settings: Perceptions of policy-makers and health providers in Sierra Leone
Senesi, Reynold G. B.
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Witter, S., Zou, G., Diaconu, K., Senesi, R. G. B., Idriss, A., Walley, J. & Wurie, H. (2020) Opportunities and challenges for delivering non-communicable disease management and services in fragile and post-conflict settings: Perceptions of policy-makers and health providers in Sierra Leone. Conflict and Health, 14:3.
Background: The growing burden of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries presents substantive challenges for health systems. This is also the case in fragile, post-conflict and post-Ebola Sierra Leone, where NCDs represent an increasingly significant disease burden (around 30% of adult men and women have raised blood pressure). To date, documentation of health system challenges and opportunities for NCD prevention and control is limited in such settings. This paper aims to identify opportunities and challenges in provision of NCD prevention and care and highlight lessons for Sierra Leone and other fragile states in the battle against the growing NCD epidemic.Methods: This paper focuses on the case of Sierra Leone and uses a combination of participatory group model building at national and district level, in rural and urban districts, interviews with 28 key informants and review of secondary data and documents. Data is analysed using the WHO’s health system assessment guide for NCDs.Results: We highlight multiple challenges typical to those encountered in other fragile settings to the delivery of preventive and curative NCD services. There is limited government and donor commitment to financing and implementation of the national NCD policy and strategy, limited and poorly distributed health workforce and pharmaceuticals, high financial barriers for users, and lack of access to quality-assured medicines with consequent high recourse to private and informal care seeking. We identify how to strengthen the system within existing (low) resources, including through improved clinical guides and tools, more effective engagement with communities, and regulatory and fiscal measures.Conclusion: Our study suggests that NCD prevention and control is of low but increasing priority in Sierra Leone; challenges to addressing this burden relate to huge numbers with NCDs (especially hypertension) requiring care, overall resource constraints and wider systemic issues, including poorly supported primary care services and access barriers. In addition to securing and strengthening political will and commitment and directing more resources and attention towards this area, there is a need for in-depth exploratory and implementation research to shape and test NCD interventions in fragile and post-conflict settings.