Envisioning a Healthy Future: Africa’s Shifting Burden of Disease


A paper launched on October 13 in Pretoria uses the International Futures (IFs) model to explore the effects on human development if Africa achieves health-related targets by 2030. Authored by Pardee Center Research Assistant Kanishka Narayan—who spent his summer as an intern at the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa—and Korbel alumnus Zachary Donnenfeld, the paper addresses targets 3.3 and 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: respectively, eradication of selected communicable diseases, and a one-third reduction in premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by 2030.

The paper examines the difficulties of meeting these major health goals as well as various trade-offs and impacts on human development. Africa has the highest prevalence of communicable diseases in the world; in 2015, more than three times as many people died from AIDs in sub-saharan Africa—and more than ten times as many from malaria— as in the rest of the world combined. Non-communicable diseases are also increasing on the continent. Reducing disease and mortality provides immediate health benefits, but long-term demographic and economic challenges, as well.

Keeping the complexity of the challenge in mind, the paper concludes that Africa should focus on the development of horizontal health systems that address a broad range of needs, in addition to vertical programs addressing specific diseases, which have been successful in the past on the African continent, but are limited in scope and anticipation of forthcoming health challenges.

Envisioning a Healthy Future is the latest work for the African Futures Project, a collaboration between the Pardee Center for International Futures and ISS-Africa. Lead author Kanishka Narayan hails from Pune, India and expects to earn his GFTEI MA from Korbel in June, 2017.