Surprising but true – as a country develops, its progress towards greater wealth is very often accompanied by the emergence of new health problems.
A more sedentary lifestyle, the adoption of new types of behaviour such as smoking and a different diet … all these lifestyle changes are the price that is paid for progress as they contribute to the emergence of new conditions, either chronic or fatal, such as cardiovascular disease.
Experts refer to this as epidemiological transition. Professor Abdelhamid Aberkane, head of the Medical Resuscitation Unit at Constantine University Hospital, Algeria, explains. He is someone who has seen this phenomenon from two perspectives: after serving as a minister he is now facing the reality of a country in the throes of development.
In Algeria life expectancy has risen from the age of 52 in 1963 to 75 today. This radical change is reflected in an ageing of the population and an increase in all the health issues associated with age, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity and chronic respiratory disease.
As Professor Aberkane sees it, this epidemiological transition is reflected firstly in the reduced incidence of infectious diseases, thanks to the development of vaccinations.
This period is therefore marked by a transition from the battle against infectious diseases to the emergence of the degenerative illnesses associated with ageing and with behavioural changes.
Today Algeria is facing a veritable “epidemic” of cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).
At present, this is an extremely hard burden for the country to cope with. Arterial hypertension, a primary factor in CVAs, is not being properly managed in our country.
Smoking continues to increase and, with the changes in diet, the incidence of diabetes has considerably risen in recent years.
High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and an unhealthy diet together create an explosive cocktail and one that very many developing countries are now having to deal with.