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Rwanda: Shifting Focus From Curative to Preventive and Promotive Health

In the evolving landscape of healthcare, a paradigm shift from curative to preventive and promotive health strategies has become increasingly imperative. This transition represents a fundamental reorientation in our approach to well-being, emphasising proactive measures to forestall the onset of illnesses rather than predominantly reacting to them.

The traditional model of healthcare predominantly centred on curative interventions, often addressing ailments after their manifestation, is being reshaped by a growing recognition of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of preventive and promotive health measures.

This article delves into the pivotal importance of embracing a preventive and promotive health ethos, exploring the multifaceted benefits it offers not only in terms of individual health outcomes but also in alleviating the strain on healthcare systems and fostering resilient and thriving communities.

Historically, healthcare systems worldwide have centred their efforts on curative care, intervening to treat diseases and ailments once they have already surfaced. While the importance of curative care remains indisputable, there is a growing imperative to pivot towards a more proactive approach. This paradigm shift involves the identification and mitigation of risk factors before they burgeon into severe conditions, underscoring the significance of early intervention and health maintenance.

The escalating global burden of chronic diseases, encompassing prevalent conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, underscores the critical necessity for a paradigm shift in healthcare orientation from predominantly curative to a more proactive, preventive approach.

Chronic diseases, often rooted in lifestyle and behavioural factors, impose a considerable strain on healthcare systems worldwide. By realigning our focus towards preventive healthcare strategies, which inherently involve early interventions and targeted risk reduction, we can effectively address the root causes of these conditions.

In the recently published second Rwanda non-communicable diseases risk factor study report of 2022, half of the participants of that study had never had their blood pressure measured, it also reported that 38 per cent of females have never had their blood pressure measured and the percentage increases to 65 per cent in males.

This report further indicates that the City of Kigali has the highest prevalence of diabetes, which is more than four times higher than the national prevalence. This report also shows 88.5 per cent of respondents had never undergone blood sugar measurement with significant differences between both sexes, 90.4 per cent of men and 87.0 per cent of women.

Empowering Rwandans to enhance their health-seeking behaviour is paramount in the ongoing shift from curative to preventive healthcare. Embracing a proactive stance towards health involves individuals actively participating in preventive measures, such as routine check-ups, and screenings, and adopting healthier lifestyles.

This cultural transformation is pivotal for the success of Rwanda’s evolving healthcare strategy. By fostering a collective commitment to prioritise health and well-being, Rwandans contribute significantly to the effectiveness of preventive measures, thereby reducing the prevalence of chronic diseases and lessening the strain on healthcare resources.

Encouraging and facilitating improved health-seeking behaviour among the population is a fundamental step in ensuring the success and sustainability of Rwanda’s broader public health initiatives.

Leveraging Rwanda’s extensive network of over 50,000 community healthcare workers presents a transformative opportunity to propel the nation’s shift from curative to preventive and promotive health. These dedicated community health workers, deeply embedded in local communities, can play a pivotal role in disseminating preventive healthcare information, conducting health education sessions, and facilitating early interventions.

By capitalising on their trust within communities, these frontline healthcare workers can encourage behavioural changes, promote healthy lifestyles, and underscore the importance of preventive measures. Their engagement holds the potential to create a grassroots movement towards proactive health practices, aligning with Rwanda’s overarching healthcare strategy.

This strategic utilisation of community health workers not only maximises the efficiency of preventive healthcare initiatives but also empowers communities to take charge of their well-being, fostering a sustainable and culturally resonant approach to health promotion.

The transformative journey from curative to preventive and promotive health in Rwanda represents an important and timely paradigm shift and a profound commitment to the well-being of Rwanda’s citizens. The amalgamation of global insights on the rising burden of chronic diseases and the compelling data from the recent NCD risk factor study underscores the urgency for this shift.

As Rwanda charts a course towards a health system grounded in proactive measures, the emphasis on empowering individuals to actively participate in their health journey emerges as a linchpin for success. The strategic deployment of the extensive network of community healthcare workers further amplifies the nation’s ability to foster a grassroots movement towards preventive healthcare.

As the nation navigates this transformative era, the benefits extend beyond individual health outcomes, alleviating strain on healthcare systems and cultivating resilient and thriving communities. Rwanda’s dedication to this holistic approach positions it not only at the forefront of healthcare innovation but also as a beacon for nations aspiring to forge a healthier and more sustainable future.

The author is an applied epidemiologist.

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