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n South African Medical Journal - Multimorbidity in non-communicable diseases in South African primary healthcare : research
Background. Multimorbidity in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a complex global healthcare challenge that is becoming increasingly prevalent. In Africa, comorbidity of communicable diseases and NCDs is also increasing.
Objectives. To evaluate the extent of multimorbidity among patients with NCDs in South African (SA) primary healthcare (PHC).
Methods. A dataset obtained from a previous morbidity survey of SA ambulatory PHC was analysed. Data on conditions considered active and ongoing at consultations by PHC providers were obtained.
Results. Altogether 18 856 consultations were included in the dataset and generated 31 451 reasons for encounter and 24 561 diagnoses. Hypertension was the commonest NCD diagnosis encountered (13.1%), followed by type 2 diabetes (3.9%), osteoarthritis (2.2%), asthma (2.0%), epilepsy (1.9%) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (0.6%). The majority of patients (66.9%) consulted a nurse and 33.1% a doctor. Overall 48.4% of patients had comorbidity and 14.4% multimorbidity. Multimorbidity (two or more conditions) was present in 36.4% of patients with COPD, 23.7% with osteoarthritis, 16.3% with diabetes, 15.3% with asthma, 12.0% with hypertension and 6.7% with epilepsy. Only 1.1% also had HIV, 1.0% TB, 0.4% depression and 0.04% anxiety disorders.
Conclusion. About half of the patients with NCDs had comorbidity, and multimorbidity was most common in patients with COPD and osteoarthritis. However, levels of multimorbidity were substantially lower than reported in high-income countries. Future clinical guidelines, training of PHC nurses and involvement of doctors in the continuum of care should address the complexity of patients with NCDs and multimorbidity.
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