Arusha. The high exodus of patients to India for treatment of chronic diseases is partly due to lack of information on treatment facilities available locally.
"Some of the medical services are readily available at referrable hospitals in the region", said the executive secretary of the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) Gibson Kibiki.
He decried the high number of East Africans going to India to seek treatment of cancer, kidney and heart diseases which can be accessed locally.
Speaking to journalists who visited the Bujumbura-based facility over the weekend, Prof. Kibiki cited the heart diseases based in Tanzania as among the treatment centres for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
"Cancer, heart and kidney diseases can be handled locally by regional centres of excellence designated by the East African Community (EAC)", he said.
Within the framework of EAC, kidney diseases treatment are to be handled by designated hospitals in Kenya while the same treatment facilities in Uganda will do the same for cancer.
The East African region has in recent years seen increasing cases of NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, notably heart diseases, stroke, cancers, diabetes and chronic kidney diseases.
NCDs, distinguished for their non-infectious role, have overtaken the communicable diseases as the leading cause of death globally, accounting for 68 per cent.
Prof. Kibiki said the commission would soon avail on its updated website information on the major health facilities which offered specialized treatment across the region.
He explained though that HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) remained the major health concerns in the region.
"On HIV, we would focus on life-prolonging drugs and how to make them work better. The disease is still with us and preventive measures are necessary", he said.
EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko described as counter-productive the tendency by researchers and medics in EA to work in silos, saying the region was one and diseases do not know borders.
He said the commission has been put in place out of the realization that the region could not forever be dependent on medical research conducted abroad.
"This facility ought to bring together the best brains in health research from the entire region to tackle challenges faced by East Africans in accessing quality health care", he explained.