Region to adopt 10 targets to combat NCDs

In order to prevent and control non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 2025, 11 South-East Asian countries are expected to adopt ten targets for having lost millions of lives every year due to NCDs.

World Health Organization (WHO) , South-East Asian Region’s news release states an estimated 7.9 million lives, 55% of all deaths in the South-East Asian Region are lost every year due to non-communicable disease (NCDs) making it the biggest killer in WHO’s South-East Asia Region.

The four major NCDs in the region include cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancers, and diabetes.

The most common disease in the country, diabetes, has been seen on the rise annually. The recent Annual Health Bulletin (AHB) of 2013 shows 4, 097 cases seen in Bhutan in the year 2012 and 2, 541 in 2008.

Likewise many NCDs are seen with similar pattern in Bhutan.

NCDs share four behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol.

A WHO news release states that the increase in NCDs is attributed to factors such as population ageing, rapid and unplanned urbanization, and negative effects of globalization like trade and irresponsible marketing of unhealthy products, low literacy and poverty.

“Non-Communicable Diseases have a huge toll on national economies. NCDs disproportionately affect poor, impoverished families and are a growing burden on health system,” Dr Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO regional director for South-East Asia quoted as saying in the news release.

“These 10 targets are ambitious goals, and they demonstrate that governments are serious about reducing the disease burden from NCDs,” she added.

10 targets to be achieved by 2025 are 25% relative reduction in overall mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases, 10 % relative reduction in the harmful use of alcohol, 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged over 15 years, 10% relative in prevalence of insufficient physical activity,30% relative reduction in mean population intake of salt/sodium, 25% reduction in prevalence of raised blood pressure, halting the rise in obesity and diabetes.

50% of eligible people receive drug therapy and counseling to prevent heart attacks and strokes,80% availability of affordable basic technologies and essential medicines, including generics, required to treat major NCDs in both public and private facilities and the last one is 50% relative reduction in the proportion of households using fuels as the primary cooking source.

Health ministers will meet at the 66th Session WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in New Delhi.

In May 2013 the World Health Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of NCDs. The global action plan covers the period from 2013-2020.

The assembly also adopted the global monitoring framework and a set of nine voluntary global targets. At WHO Regional Committee Meeting, countries of the South-East Asian Region are expected to endorse all nine global targets. With that the region is also endorsing a tenth target to address household air pollution which remains a neglected issue, especially affecting poor rural women. The target calls for a 50% reduction in households using solid fuels like wood, crop, residue, dried dung, coal and charcoal, as the primary cooking source.

According to WHO estimates, while 50% of the global population uses solid fuels for their energy needs, 61% of households in the region use solid fuels, which is second only to Africa at 77%.

The selected health risk factors indicator in the Annual Health Bulletin of 2013 shows population using solid fuels is about 39.5% Bhutan.

It is said that household air pollution (HAP) which is also known as indoor air pollution is largely a problem of poverty and lack of access to clean fuels for which the news release states that, therefore, it requires committed actions by multiple sectors including the governments, industry, NGOs and the private sector.

In Bhutan, due to Cerebro-vascular diseases, about 209 patients lost their lives in last five years and total number of cases is 1, 546.

The Regional Committee is expected to adopt a Regional Action Plan for Prevention and Control of NDCs. The action plan is intended to provide a roadmap of actions for developing and implementing policies and programs to reduce the burden of NCDs.

It also provides a roadmap to achieve a 25% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases by 2025.

The news release says the implementation of the plan will be monitored through a set of indicators which is consistent with the global monitoring framework. Reports on progress in implementing the action plan will be submitted to the WHO Regional Committee session in 2016, 2018 and 2021.

The macroeconomic impact of NCDs is profound, resulting in loss of productivity and gross domestic product. Due to long-term treatment and high out-of-pocket costs, NCDs can result in catastrophic health expenditures and impoverishment, states the news release.

WHO’s South-East Asia Region comprises the following 11 member states; Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

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