Noncommunicable diseases (NCD) is one of growing challenges facing the country today. As the country develops, more people will suffer from lifestyle diseases that are already major killers; diseases of affluence cause more than 60 percent of deaths in the country. What is worrying is that even as we have five-year multi-sectoral action plans, the threat is growing.
NCDs have indeed become global health concern. That’s why the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 called for a high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and treatment of NCDs.
Urgent actions must be taken. The danger is that our plans have a way of becoming paper tigers, gathering dust on the shelves of government offices. This happening, a large number of potentially productive people will be rendered useless by NCDs, impacting society and our healthcare system.
Bhutanese are more vulnerable to NCDs because of our deep cultural relations with alcohol, doma and fat-rich food, among others. We are, by and large, a laid back people with an alarmingly unconcerned attitude towards personal health. According to health officials, more than 90 percent of Thimphu’s population is exposed to at least one risk factor of NCDs. What this tells us is that, in the near future, the urban population will be the greatest burden on the country’s economy.
The country spends more than Nu 180 million every year to refer abroad patients with advanced NCD. The burden on the health system will only increase if we do not explore and adopt efficient and effective production and consumption of health and healthcare system.
The Multi-sectoral National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (2015-2020) that was approved by the 80th Lhengye Zhungtshog in 2015 is a critically important document that will help attain the highest standard of physical, mental and social wellbeing for all Bhutanese. We should be able to, guided by this document, adopt healthy lifestyles and reduce exposure to risk factors that contribute to NCDs.
Policy and the strategic framework must be translated into action.