KYENG Mercy Tetuh is an Epidemiologist, the founder and CEO of Value Health Africa and currently serves as public health office with the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Eastern Regional Collaborating center) under the stewardship of the African Union. Her impact as a prolific civic leader has earned her multiple national and international recognitions making her a young iconic figure in the public health space.
In Africa, we say that cancer is a disease of the rich and diabetes is a disease of affluence. Contrary to this perception, it is the poor that are most affected by these diseases – including those that become poor because of it. I recall attending a conference on kidney disease and a man from the North West region of Africa where I come from shared a story with me. This man was one of the highest paid class of individuals in government, but because of kidney failure and all of the management it required – the testing, treatment, missing work – this man of wealth had to beg his relatives to help him buy food. The tuition funds he might have once set aside for his children to acquire an education were no longer a possibility. In Cameroon, my home, the effects of high blood pressure and other NCDs are forcing people below the poverty line. Non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer accounts for more than 38 million deaths or 60% of all annual deaths worldwide. These types of deaths are only expected to increase and account for 75% of all worldwide deaths by 2035. But in Africa, these are silent diseases that no one talks about. I’ve been forced to ask myself many questions like, “Why are there no National Health programs in Cameroon to combat these conditions? Why is it that only 3% of global funds are allocated to non-communicable diseases?” I couldn’t find an answer and it was then that I realized I had to become an answer. That was when I organized a team of Cameroonian professionals and created Value Health Africa (VAHA), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “add to the quality of life and promote sustainable community development by improving the health and wellness in communities.”
Value Health Africa in collaboration with community health facilities has organized health promotion programs in over 19 health areas in Cameroon through which these communities have benefited from health education and screening programs on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as Diabetes, High blood pressure, obesity, cervical and breast cancers. In addition to this, we have also installed 5 NCD check points (aimed at improving on early diagnosis while also creating employment opportunities for young graduates) and 3 mini-control-clinics in underserved communities where positive cases identified during outreach programs, are currently accessing routine checks and treatment, thus reducing the number of complications stemming from these diseases. Through this initiative VAHA has also built a strong volunteer network of young medical professionals comprised of over 70 volunteers, through which young professionals deploy part of their time in serving humanity. VAHA is also currently instituting adolescent clubs in vulnerable communities to improve on the sexual and reproductive health of young people. Through Kyeng Mercy’s work with the Africa Union, she is pushing the NCD agenda at a continental level through which she has been able to identify gaps in the prevention and control of NCDs within AU member states and is currently building an Eastern Africa platform for the sharing of best practices on NCDs.
Her word for young people is ‘Stop wishing and just do it !!”. Ask your creator to help you find the purpose for your calling, and once you get a hold of it, just act and stop procrastinating. Remember, the right time to start solving that problem you’ve identified is “now”. You will never get full approval from everyone; you will encounter barriers and you may want to backdown or backout etc., but none of these should stop you from perusing that which you have been called to do.
To know more about her organization visit; www.valuehealthafrica.org
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