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Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research

On-line version ISSN 2219-0635
Print version ISSN 0030-2465


MBOERA, Leonard E.G. et al. The changing landscape of public health in sub-Saharan Africa: Control and prevention of communicable diseases needs rethinking. Onderstepoort j. vet. res. [online]. 2014, vol.81, n.2, pp.1-6. ISSN 2219-0635.

In sub-Saharan Africa, communicable diseases (CDs) are the leading public health problems and major causes of morbidity and mortality. CDs result in significant individual suffering, disrupting daily life, threatening livelihoods and causing one-third of the years lost to illness or death worldwide. This paper aims to analyse the current strategies in the control and prevention of CDs in sub-Saharan Africa and proposes an ecohealth approach in relation to current changing epidemiological profiles. Whilst in recent years the burden of HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria have helped to mobilise large amounts of funding and expertise to help address them, many CDs, particularly those affecting the poor, have been neglected. People living in rural areas are also likely to be politically marginalised and living in degraded environments. They often lack assets, knowledge and opportunities to gain access to health care or protect themselves from infections. New diseases are also emerging at unprecedented rates and require attention. Many CDs are rooted in environmental and livelihood conditions and mediated by social and individual determinants. It is now increasingly recognised that a much broader, coordinated and multi-sectoral ecohealth approach is required to address CDs in sub-Saharan Africa. An ecohealth approach has been shown to be more robust in public health interventions than the traditional medical approach. The approach helps to generate an understanding of ecosystem factors that influence the emergence and spread of both old and new diseases, considers temporal and spatial dimensions of disease infection and allows systems thinking. In conclusion, establishing intersectoral and multisectoral linkages is important to facilitate joint efforts to address CDs at the national, district and community levels.

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