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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 166-171

Epidemiological transition and the dual burden of communicable and noncommunicable diseases in Zimbabwe

Department of Community Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of Zimbabwe; Department of Health Studies, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa

Correspondence Address:
Prosper Nyabani
3369, 259 Close, Kuwadzana 3, P.O.BOX Dzivarasekwa, Harare

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jncd.jncd_69_21

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Background: The epidemiological transition model, coined by Abdel Omran in 1971, building on the demographic transition theory developed by Frank Notestein in 1945, has been largely credited for describing epidemiological situations both globally and nationally in many parts of the world. However, owing to its origins in the United States of America (USA), scholars critique the model's applicability to various geographical, socioeconomic, and epidemiological contexts, which are diversely different from the USA and vary from region to region. It was imperative to test the applicability of this model in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), particularly Zimbabwe to ascertain versatility in describing epidemiological transitions, predicting population health status and whether the assumption of a shift from communicable diseases (CDs) to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) could be confirmed in a low-income developing nation focusing on Zimbabwe. Methods: The study was a retrospective document review case study, using the existing framework of the epidemiological transition model, as a guiding principle, applying the model to describe the demographic and epidemiological circumstances prevailing within Zimbabwe. The researcher reviewed, compared, analyzed, and described the existing literature on population dynamics and epidemiological profile of the country for the period 1990–2020. Results: The epidemiological transition model attempts to describe the changes in epidemiological circumstances both at national and global scales. The model presumes a shift in CDs to NCDs. However, many scholars question the applicability of the model to diverse contexts, particularly within the SSA context. The Zimbabwean case was considered in light to its rising population growth, dual burden characterized by a high burden of communicable and rising NCDs. Findings from this study indicate that NCDs are on the rise in Zimbabwe. However, owing to a high burden of CDs, a dual disease burden model is the best fit to explain the epidemiological transition currently obtaining within Zimbabwe. Conclusions: Consequentially, funding streams targeting CDs should take heed of the currently obtaining epidemiological situation in the country and respond by challenging funding to public health interventions with a view to address the rising NCDs. Further, public health authorities should craft Public health policies that create supporting environments conducive for the populace to fight NCDs. Informed by the Ottawa charter, reorientation of health services to ensure more health systems responsiveness in the face of emerging NCDs is imperative. In addition, developing interpersonal skills for individuals to be able to act against NCD's risk behaviors and factors is key; at the same time, strengthening community action by capacitating community health workers to address risk behaviors and factors associated with NCDs at community level is imperative. Finally, the inadequacy of the epidemiological transition model inadvertently challenges epidemiologists to step up efforts to review, refine, and extend the model to suit SSA countries like Zimbabwe and elsewhere countries in similar circumstances.

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