Addressing urban non-communicable diseases – obesity, diabetes, hypertension


An analysis of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases in urban areas, focusing on the risk factors, preventive measures, and health promotion strategies.

Urbanisation has brought numerous opportunities and challenges to Ghana, with a significant impact on public health. One of the major challenges faced by urban areas is the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The three most prevalent NCDs in urban Ghana are obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Let’s examine the risk factors contributing to the rise of these diseases, explore preventive measures, and discusses health promotion strategies aimed at addressing this pressing public health issue.

The rising burden of NCDs in urban Ghana

Ghana’s urban landscape has undergone rapid changes in recent years, leading to lifestyle modifications that contribute to the rise of NCDs. Obesity, diabetes and hypertension have emerged as significant health concerns, impacting not only individuals but also straining the healthcare system and the economy.

Risk factors

The increased prevalence of NCDs in urban Ghana can be attributed to several risk factors, including:

  • Unhealthy diets: The shift from traditional diets to a more Westernised and processed food diet rich in unhealthy fats, sugars and salt has played a key role in rising obesity and diabetes rates.
  • Physical inactivity: Urbanisation has led to sedentary lifestyles, with many individuals relying on motorised transportation and spending long hours in desk-based jobs, contributing to obesity and hypertension.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Increased availability and accessibility of tobacco and alcohol products in urban areas have led to a surge in smoking and excessive alcohol consumption linked to various NCDs. Ghana has recently seen an increase in the production, distribution and consumption of local alcoholic beverages known as gin bitters.
  • Stress and mental health: Urban living often comes with higher stress levels due to competitive environments and social pressures, impacting mental health and potentially increasing the risk of NCDs.
  • Lack of awareness: Many urban Ghanaians lack awareness about the risks associated with NCDs, leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment.

How do we deal with this?

Addressing the burden of NCDs in urban Ghana requires a comprehensive approach with a focus on prevention. Some essential preventive measures include:

  • Education and awareness: Raising awareness about the risk factors and consequences of NCDs through public health campaigns and community engagement can empower individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles.
  • Promoting healthy diets: Encouraging the consumption of locally-sourced fruits, vegetables and whole grains while discouraging the intake of processed foods high in sugars, fats and salt can help combat obesity and diabetes.
  • Physical activity promotion: Creating opportunities for physical activity – such as building parks, cycle lanes, and promoting walking-friendly neighbourhoods – can motivate individuals to lead more active lives.
  • Tobacco and alcohol control: Implementing and enforcing strict regulations on tobacco and alcohol advertising, sales and consumption can curb the rising use of these harmful substances.
  • Stress management: Providing access to mental health support services and promoting stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness and relaxation can improve overall well-being.

Health promotion strategies

To effectively tackle NCDs in urban Ghana, health promotion strategies should be an integral part of public health initiatives:

  • Community health centres: Strengthening community health centres with well-trained healthcare professionals can enhance early detection and management of NCDs.
  • School health programmes: Integrating NCD prevention into school curricula and promoting healthy habits from a young age can foster long-term positive health behaviours.
  • Workplace wellness programmes: Encouraging businesses to implement workplace wellness programmes that include physical activity sessions and healthy eating options can benefit employees’ health.
  • Media and information campaigns: Leveraging traditional and digital media to disseminate health-related information and raise awareness on NCDs can reach a broader audience.
  • Public-private partnerships: Collaborations between the government, private sector, and non-governmental organisations can maximise resources and efforts in combating NCDs.


The rising burden of non-communicable illnesses in Ghana’s cities poses a danger to the country’s health and prosperity. Obesity, diabetes and hypertension are complicated issues that are exacerbated by a variety of risk factors, many of which are related to urbanisation and lifestyle changes.

Preventive interventions and health promotion techniques are critical to effectively tackling this public health concern. Ghana may strive for a healthier urban population and reduce the impact of NCDs on its people and economy by prioritising education, lifestyle changes, and community participation.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any organisation.

>>>I’ll be your wingman on your health journey! The writer is a public health professional with a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield, USA and works as a Medical Fraud Analyst at the Illinois Office of Inspector-General. He founded GD Consult in Ghana to promote healthy lifestyles and developed innovative projects, such as a Health Risk Assessment Model for hydraulic fracking operations. He can be reached via [email protected]

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