Bhutan yesterday observed World Kidney Day for the first time. Bhutan will now celebrate the day every year.

The day highlights the importance of kidney health.

The theme of this year’s kidney day is obesity, which is not a new health problem but is affecting an increasing number of people in Bhutan and around the world.

Speaking at the programme in Thimphu, health minister Tandin Wangchuk stressed the importance of maintaining an appropriate body mass to minimise the risks. He also said that it is important for people to engage in physical activities to keep their body healthy.

During the financial year 2015-16, 21 kidney patients were referred to India for treatment, according to him. He said about Nu 21.7 million was spent by the government on treatment.

There are 16 dialysis machines in the country. The health minister expressed his gratitude to His Majesty The King for the generous support being provided to the patients.

Dr Lotay Tshering of the Bhutan Kidney Foundation said it is important for people to remind themselves about the importance of kidney health. He said kidney diseases are preventable.

High blood pressure, diabetes, bad food habits, obesity and lack of physical activities, are causes of kidney diseases. “It’s important to spread awareness in our communities,” he said.

Nephrologist Dr Minjur Dorji said there are about 20,000 people suffering from obesity in the country. He said that people would see the impact of the disease on their body only when 80 percent of the organ has been destroyed.

“It’s a silent killer,” he said, adding that creating awareness was important. He said diabetes was one of the main causes of kidney diseases. “However, no proper research has been carried out in the country,” he added.

Dr Minjur Dorji said that minimising the intake of alcohol, salt and oil will reduce the risk of kidney diseases. “Kidney diseases are preventable. We should not smoke,” he said.

MB Subba