Cameroon is a West-Central African country with a population of approximately 27 million people. The current male to female sex ratio is close to 1:1. Between 2000 and 2019, mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among women in Cameroon increased from about 27% to the current 38%.
NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and neurological diseases, are often misconstrued to be diseases of high-income countries. Yet they prove an even greater burden to low and middle-income countries, where necessary resources and health services are hard to access or unavailable.
Seventy-one percent of the world’s mortality is caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and 77% of all NCD deaths occur in low and middle-income countries, such as Cameroon. In 2019, 26% of females in Cameron between 15 and 34 died of NCDs, and 31% of males. 38% of females between the ages of 35 and 60 died of NCDs as compared to 40% of males who died of the same causes.
Progress has been made in Cameroon when it comes to sex-disaggregated health data. For instance, in 2009 the country had little or no sex-disaggregated data for health parameters such as prevalence of underweight children, immunization rates, etc. Progress has since been made and surveys from 2014 to now include sex-disaggregated data. However, there is still room for improvement in the collecting and analysis of sex-disaggregated health data related to NCDs in Cameroon.
Collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated data in non-communicable diseases is critical because there are differences in how certain non-communicable diseases present and manifest in each biological sex, and because of ingrained gender norms and expectations in Cameroon, there are differences in time of diagnosis, attitude to diagnosis, standard treatments and available care based on one’s biological sex. It is important that these differences are uncovered and addressed in a bid to reach gender equity in health data in the country.
Beyond the collection of sex-disaggregated data, it is paramount that the data is analyzed with a gender lens and used to inform policies in order to lead to positive health outcomes for all. Cameroon, like many other low- and middle-income countries has some data on health promotion that increases behaviors that prevent NCDs such as tobacco use prevention and physical activity. However, while the country has disseminated information on the elements of tobacco control, there is still no comprehensive tobacco policy.
Multiple factors affect the policy development process in Cameroon. Even when policies have been developed, implementation sometimes becomes a problem especially when negative gender norms are so deeply rooted that there is denial of their existence, and/or reluctance to do away with them by the males in charge.
Cameroon also needs better national level support, including resources and adequate education on prevention of NCDs, in order to create and implement new policies that benefit all. The hope is that in the near future, Cameroon will go on to use gender data to draw up new policies to reduce NCDs among women and people who are non-binary, and then scale related evidence-based programs.