For all the strides that it has made consistently and especially in the way it handled the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN Inter-Agency Task Force (UNIATF) and the WHO Special Program on Primary Health Care Award is a fitting recognition for the Ministry of Health. 

The ministry’s focus on the development of primary healthcare has witnessed a remarkable growth over the years. With the government that won the mandate of the people for its strong focus on health, its achievement would have been by far more significant had it not been for the unfortunate disruptions that the pandemic brought along.

Among the few countries that fought the pandemic with exemplary commitment and valour Bhutan showed that no matter how difficult and challenging the circumstances, healthcare ought not to lose priority. 

The award assumes special significance  because it was given to the ministry for successful implementation of the Service with Care and Compassion Initiative (SCCI) – a people-centred approach to the delivery of services for non-communicable diseases (NCD) services. At a time when the country is grappling with rising NCD cases, this award is a reminder that we have a lot more to do and way far ahead to go.

SCCI, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said, would foster community vitality, inclusiveness and empowerment of the patient. We need all of these and more.

Although the people-centred approach has promoted regular interface and improved the provision of NCD care in the country, there is a need to look beyond treatment. Because NCDs are preventable, focusing on preventive care would be by far more sensible and affordable option in the long term.

In other words, the current level of education and awareness should pick up pace. Bold and hard decisions will have to be made to discourage the people from consuming food products that contribute to early NCD cases. Our food habits can be changed. Salt consumption can be, for example, cut significantly if health advisory is taken to every nook and corner and pressed relentlessly on the psyche of the people.

With a large and growing number of educated population who are more than ever conscious of what they eat, change can be effected without a significant hurdle. Spending more on preventive care so is the best investment for the country.