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Analytical summary - Risk factors for health

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Risk factors for noncommunicable disease are major public health problems in Malawi, yet the majority of people suffering from noncommunicable diseases in general, and hypertension in particular, do not know that they have a problem. In Malawi, the main risk factors include tobacco smoking, being overweight, excessive alcohol intake and physical inactivity. Until 2009, community data on these risk factors were scarce. Malawi conducted a population-based survey in 2009 to determine the magnitude of noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors.[1]

Risky sexual behaviour is another public health issue in Malawi. Behavioural surveillance surveys conducted in Malawi are aimed at tracking trends in HIV/AIDS -related knowledge, and attitude and behaviour in subpopulations involved in risky sexual behaviours.

The provision of water sanitation and hygiene programmes in schools is intended to promote hygiene and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases, among other things.

Risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, Malawi, 2009[1]

There is an urgent need to have health-facility-based and community-based programmes for treatment, prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases and promotion of health lifestyles.

The risk factors for noncommunicable diseases are shown in the table. Results from the STEPS survey[1] show that 14.1% of the respondents smoke, 16.9% consume alcohol, 9.5% have low levels of physical activity, 21.9% are overweight and 4.5% are obese. With the exception of obesity and low levels of physical activity, more men experienced risk factors than women.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Malawi national STEPS survey for chronic non-communicable diseases and their risk factors. Final report (pdf 1.45Mb). Lilongwe, Government of Malawi, Ministry of Health, and WHO, 2010