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Risk factors for health

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The burden of noncommunicable diseases is unknown in Liberia. Although some hospital-based studies were conducted, especially in the JFK Medical Center, St Joseph’s Catholic Hospital and the Firestone Hospital, the scope of these studies was limited to complications related to hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

Before 2010, there was no programme on noncommunicable diseases, partly because of many years of conflict coupled with the weak health system. It is likely that the burden of noncommunicable diseases could be increasing silently among the general population.

This section of the Risk factors for health profile is structured as follows:


Analytical summary

Alcohol consumption
Alcohol use has health and social consequences for those who drink, for those around them, and for the nation as a whole. Alcohol-related deaths occur from cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, motor vehicle accidents, falls, drowning, suicide and homicide. The Liberia STEPS survey 2011 recorded 24% of current consumers of alcohol among respondents and 63.2% lifetime abstainers.[1]

Tobacco use
Tobacco use and smoking are dangerous addictions that commonly cause a wide variety of diseases, cancer and death. The Liberia demographic and health survey, 2007 revealed that only 2% of women said they use tobacco of any kind and only 1% said they smoke cigarettes. Twenty per cent of men use tobacco products, with 15% saying that they smoke cigarettes.[2] Also, results from the 2011 STEPS survey showed that 9.9% of sampled adults are current smokers, of which 17.2% are men and 2.8% are women.[1]

Fruit and vegetable consumption
According to the Liberia STEPS survey 2011,[1] in a typical week, the mean number of days fruit is consumed is 2.2 for males, 2.3 for females and 2.3 for both sexes. Similarly, the mean number of days vegetables are consumed is 3.4 for males, 3.6 for females and 3.5 for both sexes.[1]

Blood pressure
Raised blood pressure has been documented to be directly related to the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease. According to the Liberia STEPS survey 2011,[1] the mean blood pressure of all respondents, including those who were on medication for hypertension, is 128.7/79.7 mmHg for both sexes, 129.7/79.5 mmHg for males and 127.8/79.9 mmHg for females. The proportion of respondents with systolic blood pressure ≥140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mmHg, including those currently on medication for hypertension, is 30.7% for both sexes, 30.3% for males and 31% for females. On the other hand, those with hypertension (systolic blood pressure ≥140 mmHg and/or diastolic blood pressure ≥90 mmHg) who were not currently on medication for hypertension is 88.2% for both sexes, 90.5% for males and 86% for females. Only 11.8% of those respondents (9.6% male and 13.9% female) with hypertension are on antihypertensive drugs.[1]

According to the Liberia STEPS survey 2011,[1] a significant proportion of the respondents (91.5%) have never measured their glucose level. The mean fasting blood glucose, including those currently on medication for diabetes, is 96.7 for both sexes, 97 for males and 96.4 for females. Furthermore, the percentage of respondents that are currently on medication for diabetes is 19.2% for both sexes, 19% for males and 19.3% for females. The health consequences of diabetes among the sampled population was not assesses; however, people who have diabetes are at increased risk for many serious health problems, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart problems, eye problems that can lead to blindness, circulation and nerve problems, and kidney disease and kidney failure.[1]

Body mass index (BMI)
Waist circumference measurement is particularly useful in patients who are categorized as overweight on the BMI scale, although increased waist circumference can also be a marker for increased risk even in persons of normal weight. The Liberia STEPS survey 2011 results show a mean waist circumference of 73.3 cm for males and 80.4 cm for females.[1]

Alcohol consumption

Drug use

Risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases

Risky sexual behaviour

Hygiene (students)

State of surveillance

Endnotes:References, Sources, methods, abbreviations, etc.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Liberia STEPS survey 2011. Fact sheet (67.67kb). World Health Organization, 2011
  2. Liberia demographic and health survey, 2007 (pdf 2.5Mb). Monrovia, Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and National AIDS Control Program, and Macro International, 2008