With 40 million citizens, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and for the past 40 years, its government has worked hard to improve health care by providing it for free to its citizens. Free health care in Algeria is funded by taxes, social security and economic growth. It has helped millions of Algerians, providing medical care and services to extend the lives of millions. Early intervention through infant vaccines, for instance, has prevented many major diseases in Algeria.

The free system remains lacking. A shortage of doctors means that people seeking medical treatment have long waits and sometimes do not receive proper screening that might prevent curable diseases.

The Algerian government recently passed a new health care bill to improve access for the poor, provide patient e-files to better access medical records, and help in the detection and care of disease. The bill added programs to facilitate organ transplants, tissue and cell transplants and treatments for infertility.

Early detection is key to improving the lives of millions of citizens, as many of the major diseases in Algeria are treatable. Others are preventable. Here are the most major diseases in Algeria, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation:

  • Coronary artery disease and coronary heart disease, also known as ischemic heart disease, which results in a reduced blood supply to the heart.
  • Cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain and may cause strokes. High cholesterol is a leading cause of cerebrovascular disease. Cholesterol drugs are expensive in Algeria. Ministers of health since 2002 have tried to lower the cost of these drugs by allowing local pharmaceutical companies to open and manufacture cost-efficient medication.
  • Neonatal preterm birth is another medical issue that causes multiple medical issues and death. Infants born earlier than 37 weeks are considered preemies. Babies born this early are susceptible to heart and lung issues and permanent disabilities including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and learning disabilities. Some learning disabilities can not be detected until the child reaches school age.
    • Prenatal education can help prevent and improve the chances of full-term births. Some risks that can cause premature birth if left untreated are high blood pressure and diabetes. Early intervention increases the odds that a baby will be born healthy.
  • Diabetes is among the major diseases in Algeria. This silent and sometimes debilitating illness, which can result in blindness, loss of limbs and death, can be treated, and certain diabetes drugs are being produced locally. Proper nutrition and exercise can help prevent diabetes.
  • Congenital anomalies result in the deaths of children within the first month of life, according to the World Health Organization. Those babies who survive will need long-term medical care. Proper diet, prenatal vitamins, vaccines and early screenings can help. Prenatal care has increased over the last several years in Algeria with improved health care.
  • Chronic kidney disease is another slow, progressive disease that results in the need for long-term medical care. Medication alone is not enough for the treatment of this disease. In severe cases, people need to go on kidney dialysis to help filter their blood. This process is both painful and expensive. With early monitoring of diabetes and high blood pressure, kidney disease can sometimes be prevented.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is another growing issue in Algeria. There is some early treatment medicine on the market today, but such treatment can only slow down the illness. Alzheimer’s is a growing concern as life expectancy rises in Algeria.
    • The progression of Alzheimer’s disease is very slow, causing memory loss and dementia. As the disease worsens, people suffering forget all sense of themselves and their loved ones. People with Alzheimer’s eventually lose the ability to care for themselves in the most basic of functions.
    • People with Alzheimer’s eventually need long-term care, which can put a strain on family and caregivers. There has been an increase in privately-owned nursing homes in Alegria. An estimated 250 nursing homes have opened up thus far, with more expected in the future.

By improving and expanding Algeria’s health care services, impoverished people who otherwise might not have access to medical services and life-saving treatments are being helped. With ongoing improvements to these free health care programs, the pervasiveness of many of the most major diseases in Algeria can be lessened and, in some cases, eradicated completely.

Jacqueline Bowser

Photo: Flickr