The biggest health challenge we are faced with today is the rising instances of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Going by available health reports, almost 60 percent of death in the country is attributed to NCDs. And the threat continues to grow. As we develop, diseases of affluence will be the major killers.

Of the NCDs that are increasingly threatening the health of our people, kidney health is of major concern. Between 2015 and 2016, 21 patients with kidney problems had to be referred to India for treatment. What this means is that governments spends millions every year as referral cost.

Chronic kidney disease damages our kidneys and decreases their ability to keep us healthy. The two leading causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.

What we need to understand is that NCDs are preventable. A little change in the way we live will make a lot of difference. It is also vitally important that we make prudent food choices and walk a little bit more. Facilities to keep our body fit should be made widely available to the people. We could think of equipping our workplaces with sports and other recreational services.  We need to maintain our body mass. Obesity, which is a major factor that gives rise to CKD, is increasingly affecting the Bhutanese people, particularly the urbanites.

Alcohol is another major contributor to the rise of NCDs. Consumption of alcohol is deeply embedded in our culture, which is why tackling the problem of excessive abuse of alcohol has been challenging. But efforts are being made to address these growing health problems. The Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority (BNCA) on Thursday awarded International Certified Addictions Professional (ICAP) Level I certificates to 25 counsellors from various schools, colleges, government agencies, Royal Bhutan Army and NGOs.

What we must ensure is that counsellors should be willing to work in places where the vulnerability of problem is high. Enhancing our intervention against increasing drug and alcohol abuse is critical if we are to address the problem growing instances of NCDs. At the same time, our primary focus should be on employing some sensible health economics.