Enduring Impact

Non-Communicable Diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They include cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.  They disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries, where nearly three quarters of NCD deaths—28 million—occur. Education, screening, and treatment are key to preventing unnecessary deaths from NCDs. For many years, we worked with partners to strengthen the Tanzanian health system’s ability to effectively treat NCDs and reduce unnecessary deaths. 

Rheumatic Heart Disease 

Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the most commonly acquired heart disease in people under the age of 25 and often begins in childhood as the result of untreated strep throat. If left untreated, RHD can develop into rheumatic fever, which can cause life-threatening damage to the heart. From 2015-2020, Touch Foundation leveraged its long-term relationships in Tanzania’s Lake Zone to design a blueprint for an RHD identification and referral program that empowers and supports communities affected by RHD. 

Our health-systems approach proposed a sustainable model for screening for and treating Rheumatic Heart Disease: 

  • Healthcare Worker Training: In 2019, the Tanzanian healthcare system counted about only 20 cardiology specialists for the entire country. That equals to roughly .035 cardiology specialists per 100,000 people. So, we trained non-specialist healthcare workers at lower-level facilities on RHD screening and prevention in order to allow for more patients to be screened routinely and closer to home. 
  • Technology: The program used one of the world’s smallest handheld ultrasounds during training, making it the first time this technology was deployed in Tanzania. Incorporating these technologies has the potential to transform the ability of medical staff to provide NCD screenings on the move. 
  • Action Based on Need: We conducted a needs assessment to provide an effective baseline view of the Tanzanian RHD context that informed the entire program.