Health issues mounting in the mountains

Chimi Dema

About half the women examined for cervical cancer in Soe and Lingzhi gewogs of Thimphu in October,  last year showed abnormal Pap smear results. A total of 12 women availed the test. 

A health awareness and screening camp for the hard-to-reach population in Soe and Lingzhi, conducted in September last year revealed that 31 out of 59 women screened for cervical cancer had abnormal Pap smear results. 

This, according to the screening report released recently, is likely to suffer major complications in the future if left undetected and without being treated. The result included inflammation genitals, and fungal and bacterial infection, among others.

Thimphu dzongkhag health officer (DHO), Kencho Wangdi said that limited knowledge on personal and menstrual hygiene and lack of awareness about genitourinary infections and cervical cancer could have led to problems among women in highland communities.

“Poor practice of using contraception could also have caused the abnormality,” he said.

Of the 64 people who availed voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for human immunodeficiency virus and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), only one was found positive for Hepatitis B infection. Another two persons tested positive for treponema hemaglutination pallidum assay (THPA), a sexually transmitted disease.

Based on the severity of cases, the women were given necessary treatment and medication, the DHO said.

Besides providing health services, the dzongkhag health sector, with support from the Ministry of Health and Bhutan Foundation also conducted health awareness campaign where people were advised on the priority public health problems and other prevention measures.

The screening report also  found that about 26 percent of the 87 adults screened for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were found overweight and six percent obese.

Overweight, largely referring to an excess amount of body fat can increase the risk of many health problems, including type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and hypertension, among others, some studies state.

Studies have shown that the prevalence of overweight and obesity also reflects the greater availability of cheap calories from fatty and sugary foods in the market.

The nine percent of the total adults screened were diagnosed with pre-diabetes and two percent with diabetes. Of the total, four suffered from severe hypertension and 15 from mild hypertension.

Kencho Wangdi attributed the prevalence of non-communicable diseases among highlanders to dietary habits. “It could be because they consume large quantities of dairy products and other fatty food items,” he said.

He said that irregular physical exercise could also have led to weight gain.

The health awareness and screening programme screened 230 people from Soe, Lingzhi and Naro and also a few guests and tourists who attended the last Jomolhari festival.

Meanwhile in the September test, about 82 percent of the total 173 adults screened for NCDs were  found pre-diabetic.

In Lingzhi alone, about 43 percent of people were diagonised with hypertension including two severe cases in Chebesa village.

Today, Soe is home to 182 people living in 29 households. Lingzhi has a population of 490 individuals and 94 households.

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