Chronic diseases and health promotion

Overview - Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment

Half-truth #1. Story of Jonas Kassa

HALF-TRUTH #1: "Everyone has to die of something"

Certainly everyone has to die of something, but death does not need to be slow, painful, or premature. Most chronic diseases do not result in sudden death. Rather, they are likely to cause people to become progressively ill and debilitated, especially if their illness is not managed correctly. Death is inevitable, but a life of protracted ill-health is not. Chronic disease prevention and control helps people to live longer and healthier lives.

Dying slowly, painfully and prematurely: Jonas Kassa
65 years old, Tanzania (diabetes)

Before retiring as a mathematics teacher, Jonas Justo Kassa, United Republic of Tanzania, worked on his land after school hours and remembers that he was feeling very tired and constantly urinating. "I just assumed that I was working too hard, I wish I would have known better," he says with regret, 13 years down the road.

Despite these symptoms, Jonas waited several years before seeking help. "I first went to the traditional healer, but after months of taking the herb treatment he prescribed I wasn't feeling any better," he recalls. "So a friend drove me to the hospital –
a 90 minute drive from here. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997." The next couple of years were an immense relief as Jonas underwent medical treatment to stabilize his blood glucose levels. He also changed his diet and stopped drinking under his doctor's recommendations.

Chronic disease prevention and control helps people to live longer and healthier lives

But Jonas didn't stick to his healthier ways for long, and it led to health repercussions. "My legs started to hurt in 2001. I couldn't measure my blood sugar and from the remote slopes of Kilimanjaro, it's difficult to reach a doctor," he explains.

The pain became much worse and complications that could have been avoided unfortunately appeared. Jonas had his right and left legs amputated in 2003 and 2004. "I now feel doomed and lonely. My friends have left me. I am of no use to them and my family anymore," he said with resignation before dying in his home, on
21 May 2005. Jonas was 65 years old.