Africa faces many health challenges despite sustained growth and development over the past decade. Contributory factors are the lack of financial resources, an inadequate health professional workforce, a high burden of communicable diseases, and an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases. Rheumatology services are limited or non-existent in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Over the past decade, partnerships with international academic institutions have resulted in some progress in the training of rheumatologists and health professionals and development of rheumatology services in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia. Basic diagnostic tests, biological agents, and arthroplasty are either unavailable or not affordable by the majority of the population. Urbanization has resulted in a change in the epidemiology of rheumatic diseases with an increase in the prevalence of gout, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and scleroderma over the past four decades. Future growth of rheumatology services will depend on identifying committed individuals in underserved countries for training and supporting them to educate medical students, physicians, and health professionals in their home countries. There is a need to develop models of care using all categories of health workers and identify prevention strategies and cost-effective management programs for low resource settings. Africa affords an opportunity for collaborative research, including genetic and epigenetic studies, to improve our understanding of many of the rheumatic diseases.
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- Rheumatology in Africa—challenges and opportunities
Girish M. Mody
- BioMed Central
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