NCD still a major public health challenge
The Bhutanese people are increasingly affected by the rising burden on NCDs which include: heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers, and mental disorders.
These diseases are largely preventable through public policies that tackle the main risk factors of alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity. Yet, too many preventable deaths and disabilities occur despite the existence of cost effective solutions and policy options to address NCDs and mental disorders.
NCDs and mental disorders pose significant challenges on health, the economy and to society in Bhutan. NCDs affect people of prime age who are the economic backbone of the nation, as well as the elderly population with longevity increasing among the Bhutanese.
Concerned with the NCD epidemic, Bhutan joined the global efforts and pledged to combat NCDs in the country through the 2011, 2014, 2018 United Nation (UN) High-Level commitments, World Health Assembly and regional commitment resolutions. Bhutan has deeply resolved to implement these commitments that will secure the health, happiness and social capital of the country.
While, progress have been made in the kingdom in addressing NCDs and mental disorders through multi-sectoral approach, response needs to be further accelerated and scaled up through whole-of-government, whole-of society and cross-sectoral approaches to reduce deaths by 2025 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) health targets.
Local government administrations must take greater steps in creating and enabling environment to promote healthy lifestyle and for the implementation of risk factor prevention activities for tobacco and alcohol control in their annual developmental work plans.
Holistic healthy lifestyle interventions in schools and institutions, public and private workplaces and the community must be prioritized and healthy workplace standards must be adopted and implemented in these settings.
Enforcement of the existing laws and regulatory measures must be strengthened to protect public health through effective control of tobacco and alcohol, promotion of healthy diet and physical activity and control of other risk factors and mental disorders.
Healthy lifestyle promotion and essential NCD service targeting hard-to-reach and unreached populations such as urban poor, those living in geographically difficult terrains, and differently abled people, individuals with mental illness, and among children and older people should be improved among others.
As per the WHO estimates, in Bhutan NCDs are responsible for 69 percent of all deaths making it the leading cause of all preventable deaths. Among them, 53 percent died before 70 years of age.
Health system in Bhutan developed over five decades ago when infectious diseases and vaccine preventable diseases were the leading cause of illness and deaths, now need major review and overhaul to be able to tackle the NCDs, added the director.
Majority of communicable diseases that can be prevented and treated by primary prevention like immunization, good hygiene practices at low cost and effective antibiotics for specified duration, however, for NCDs, many determinants of behavioral risk factors lie outside the health domain and have strong root social causes such as poverty and illiteracy that also impact health in general.
The burden and treat of NCDs constitutes a major public health challenge that undermines social and economic development throughout the world, and among others, has the effect of increasing inequalities between countries and within population.
We want strong leadership and urgent action at the global, regional and national levels to mitigate the inequality.