To promote a healthier lifestyle, all civil servants will have to undergo annual health screening from June next year.
Chief programme officer with the Health Care and Diagnostic Division, at the health ministry, Tandin Dorji said that the ministry and the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) are working together to conduct annual health check-up for all civil servants after the commission wrote to the health ministry in June 2016. This was shared during the biennial health conference that concluded recently in Thimphu.
RCSC Chairperson Dasho Karma Tshiteem said that the intention for introducing such an initiative is to help make civil servants more health conscious.
Currently, there are 28,302 civil servants including those who are working abroad.
“This has become important, especially in a situation where non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the dominant health issues,” Dasho Karma Tshiteem said. “Through regular checkups, they can hopefully take preventive measures that can help prevent bigger problems and help promote a healthier lifestyle.”
According to STEPS survey 2014, 13.5 percent of adult Bhutanese population (aged 18-69 years) had three or more of the modifiable NCD risk factors.
The health official said NCDs such as alcohol-related liver disease, cancers, hypertension, and diabetes are on the rise.
“There is also an increasing trend of HIV and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) infections.”
The total number of deaths due to alcohol-related liver diseases, the top killer among NCDs in Bhutan, has increased from 140 in 2012 to 190 last year, according to the annual health Bulletin, 2017.
In 2014, about 639 cancer cases were reported from health centres across the country. Out of this, men had a higher incidence at 61 percent. The bulletin states that screening is important for prevention, early detection and initiation of treatment of cancers. Annually, about Nu 160 million on an average is spent on cancer referrals abroad.
Hypertension has become a public health concern with cases increasing from 27,023 in 2012 to 30,260 in 2016. The number of diabetic cases has increased to 12,120 in 2016 from 4,097 in 2012.
Dasho Karma Tshiteem said the advantage of such periodic screening is that it would help in detecting health problems at an earlier stage. “This usually means that it should be easier to deal with.”
When it comes to the curative side, Dasho Karma Tshiteem said civil servants would be able to avail health facilities like all other Bhutanese citizens. “The only value-addition of our initiative would be to instill higher health consciousness, which is always a good thing.”
Dasho Karma Tshiteem said the initiative should also help the health ministry’s efforts on the preventive side of health interventions.
Tandin Dorji said that the ministry had a series of consultations including the national referral hospital and developed a draft guideline and a screening form. The ministry will issue instructions after the screening protocol is finalised.