Combating non-communicable diseases in Namibia

Home Youth Corner Combating non-communicable diseases in Namibia
Combating non-communicable diseases in Namibia

Iuze Mukube


Laina Mbongo, a recent PhD graduate from Unam, is concerned about the country’s limited dietary diversity and high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes.

Mbongo’s PhD research was built on this emergence by investigating the complex connection between food patterns and the prevalence of NCDs.

“My study aimed at identifying the diverse diets consumed by individuals in Namibia, their food purchases, and the associated risks of NCDs,” she told Youth Corner.

Furthermore, Mbongo (31) believes that by studying these patterns, she can help establish targeted interventions and policies to improve food security and public health outcomes in Namibia and beyond.

Before her PhD research on dietary patterns and NCDs, her master’s degree focused on tackling the difficulties of food insecurity. 

Therefore, the research concentrated on investigating food security measures and levels in Namibia, with a specific emphasis on the informal settlements.

Mbongo told Youth Corner this is where she uncovered the critical concerns about eating patterns and the incidence of NCDs, which she expanded upon in her PhD research.

She added that before her PhD research, she was certain she would pursue a career in pure statistics. But throughout her studies, she discovered how statistics and public health intersected, which piqued her interest.

As a result, she naturally moved her concentration to merging statistics and public health to improve people’s health.

She is also passionate about advancing women’s standing in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Drawing from her insights in her PhD research, Mbongo is committed to exploring multi-faceted approaches to address the complex interplay between diet and health outcomes.

“This not only includes improving our understanding of the physiological (bodily) mechanisms underpinning food effects, but also developing practical solutions to promote healthier eating habits for both individuals and population levels.”

She advised Namibians to consume more fruits and vegetables, as her study indicated that people’s diets are rich in starch and poor in other nutrients, which correlates with a higher incidence of ailments such as diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.

She is currently working at the National Planning Commission, where her position will allow her to influence national development plans that integrate robust food security measures, while investing in promoting diverse diets for the nation to prevent the occurrence of non-communicable diseases, and ease pressures on the national health system.

The University of Namibia (Unam) expressed excitement about Mbongo’s pioneering public health research.

Her PhD supervisor Lillian Pazvakawambwa told Youth Corner she has known Mbongo for over eight years and described her as pleasant, team-spirited, hardworking and dependable.

“Her greatest strengths lie in her strong interpersonal skills and emotional and academic intelligence, and I am happy for her graduating with a PhD at 31 at that,” said Pazvakawambwa.

Education changes lives, and Mbongo proved that without  doubt.  She was born and raised in the small village of Ofudheni/Ontinda in the Oshana region.

“I come from a big and busy household, being the seventh of 10 siblings. Growing up in a rural area in a large family and facing economic hardships due to my parents being unemployed, has been a defining aspect of my upbringing.”

She has taken inspiration from her life experiences to work hard and grind the hours of studying.

She narrated that despite the challenges, she has learnt invaluable lessons about resilience, determination and the importance of perseverance. Witnessing the struggle in her family has instilled in her a strong work ethic and a drive to overcome obstacles through hard work and dedication. Mbongo’s life revolves around her family, education and pursuit of knowledge so she can contribute meaningfully to society. 

“This journey hasn’t been without its sacrifices, but the unwavering support of my family and friends has been my guiding light. 

I owe immense gratitude to God, my parents, siblings, partner, friends and especially my daughter, Felicity, who has been my rock despite her tender age.”