The best thing to do today, if you have a little leisure time, is to check with the health officials in your area and ask about the H. pylori screening schedule and get the sample container. Even better, check on your relatives and friends, anyone over 18 years, if they have taken the test and take them along.

Some 70,000 people are already on medication after they tested positive for H. pylori bacteria during the ongoing nationwide screening campaign in the past two years. This accounts for about 37 percent of the total 200,000 samples tested for the bacteria as of June 30. 

H. pylori bacteria is one of the main causes of stomach cancer. Patients end in painful deaths.

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide. An estimated 9.6 million deaths occurred from cancers in 2018 and are projected to rise to over 13.1 million by 2030.

Our records show 2,648 cancer cases between 2014 and 2017. Of these, more than half were females. Cancer is a growing public health problem in Bhutan. The top five cancers for 2014-2018 were cervical, stomach, head and neck, lung and oesophagus. Breast cancer stands third among women.

Thanks to timely screening and medication, they can escape the disease. Making it a regular or annual event in major educational institutes, the military, monasteries, and colleges could help detect many more.

The current campaign which started in 2020 also focuses on cervical and breast cancers, which pose equal if not more dangers to our women.

Many Asian countries experience disproportionately high rates of stomach cancer, possibly due to high rates of infection with Helicobacter pylori also known as H. pylori and the increased consumption of salted and smoked foods.

About one-third of cancer-related deaths have been attributed to behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. It has been shown that between 30–50 percent of cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and implementing prevention strategies. 

Besides such screening campaigns, we also need to look into having more open gyms, walking trails, and public sports facilities. Even if one has the time to play a friendly football match, in most of our major urban towns, where most of the vulnerable people reside, there is no space if one can’t afford to pay a few hundred in-ground fees. 

Neither is it a new message that parents and teachers need to play a more active role in advocating healthy practices and discouraging unhealthy habits including junk food. We have found out how difficult this is when many parents themselves have not been to school but the message has to be driven into the youth population. For us, it will be a major battle against more attractive options of unhealthy food items hitting the shelves in our shops every day. But, today, let us support the campaign and make the best use of it.