Background: Very little is known about multimorbidity and chronic diseases in low and middle income countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, and more information is needed to guide the process of adapting the health systems in these countries to respond adequately to the increasing burden of chronic diseases. We conducted a hospital-based survey in an urban setting in Ghana to determine the prevalence of multimorbidity and its associated risk factors among adult patients presenting to an inner city clinic.
Methods: Between May and June 2012, we interviewed adult patients (aged 18 years and above) attending a routine outpatient clinic at an inner-city hospital in Accra using a structured questionnaire. We supplemented the information obtained from the interviews with information obtained from respondents' health records. We used logistic regression analyses to explore the risk factors for multimorbidity.
Results: We interviewed 1,527 patients and retrieved matching medical records for 1,399 (91.6%). The median age of participants was 52.1 years (37-64 years). While the prevalence of multimorbidity was 38.8%, around half (48.6%) of the patients with multimorbidity were aged between 18-59 years old. The most common combination of conditions was hypertension and diabetes mellitus (36.6%), hypertension and musculoskeletal conditions (19.9%), and hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions (11.4%). Compared with patients aged 18-39 years, those aged 40-49 years (OR 4.68, 95% CI: 2.98-7.34), 50-59 years (OR 12.48, 95% CI: 8.23-18.92) and 60 years or older (OR 15.80, 95% CI: 10.66-23.42) were increasingly likely to present with multimorbidity. While men were less likely to present with multimorbidity, (OR 0.71, 95% CI: 0.45-0.94, p = 0.015), having a family history of any chronic disease was predictive of multimorbidity (OR 1.43, 95% CI: 1.03-1.68, p = 0.027).
Conclusions: Multimorbidity is a significant problem in this population. By identifying the risk factors for multimorbidity, the results of the present study provide further evidence for informing future policies aimed at improving clinical case management, health education and medical training in Ghana.