From 12,133 cases in 2013, it increased to 19,034 in 2015

Health: As Bhutan joined the international community to observe the World Health Day yesterday, it was another moment to reflect upon the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Health records indicate that NCDs such as diabetes, cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases are on the rise. Smoking, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, salty diet and poor nutrition are some of the major risk factors contributing to NCDs.

Themed “Beat Diabetes”, the World Health Day this year was observed at Rinpung rabdey in Paro that was followed by a health screening for monks of Rinpung rabdey.

The theme, according to health officials, is more relevant to Bhutan given a drastic increase in cases every year.

Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk said that the theme this year aptly fits the ministry’s initiative towards building a strong foundation for healthy lifestyles in the monastic body.

“It is an opportunity to create awareness on NCDs prevention measures and encourage spiritual discourse that improves lifestyle resulting into emotional and spiritual developments,” lyonpo said.

Lyonpo added that diabetes is a disease of development and that it can go silently undetected for a long period of time without any signs and symptoms.

“Bhutan is witnessing an increasing trend and burden of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes,” lyonpo said.

The prevalence of diabetes mellitus is estimated at 6.4 percent with men and women equally affected as per the 2014 STEP survey. Diabetes caseloads reported in health centres increased from 12,133 cases in 2013 to 19,034 cases in 2015. The incidence of diabetes per 10,000 population has increased consistently from 47 in 2009 to 134 in 2014. Similarly, mortality from diabetes has been steadily increasing from 22 in 2009 to 30 in 2013.

Health officials said that there is high prevalence of risk factors such as inadequate physical activity and low consumption of vegetables and fruits and high consumption of rich food.

“Coupled with raised blood pressure prevalence of about 32.4 percent, this calls for urgent actions to intensify efforts for diabetes and other NCDs,” the health minister said.

People who have diabetes lose their ability to properly regulate their blood sugar. Uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to nerve damage, heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. “Efforts to prevent and treat diabetes is important to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goal target of reducing premature mortality from NCDs by one third by 2030,” lyonpo added.

This is the second time the World Health Day was celebrated with the Zhung Dratshang. In 2013, it was observed at Punakha dzong. The 2010 Gross National Health survey states that the average sick days of 5.1 days for monks, nuns and lay monks was the highest among all occupational groups in Bhutan indicating the prevalence of NCDs among the religious communities.

Health officials said that monks and people who were identified as high risk groups at the health screening yesterday will be given counseling on promotion of healthy lifestyles and will be followed up after six months. A health screening for the people of Paro was carried in the town in the afternoon.

The event was organised by the health promotion division of the Department of Public Health in collaboration with the Paro dzongkhag and Rinpung rabdey.

Kinga Dema