Nima Wangdi

With the health ministry sensitising healthy refreshments, the Department of Public Health (DoPH) yesterday conducted a meeting on healthy refreshments with representatives from various organisations.

Aimed at combating the rising non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country, they will now promote fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, yoghurt or curd, and low-fat milk.

The department’s nutritionist and programme officer, Hari Prasad Pokhrel, said people assume fruits are expensive. “But buying a kilogramme of apples at Nu 100 would be adequate for many people while two plates of momo bought at the same amount could be enough for only two persons.”

He said every official is urged to lead the initiative of healthy eating during official meetings and healthy meals and snacks to be incorporated in the annual quotation. “All the head offices should ensure their regional, divisions and branch offices follow the initiative.”

“The health ministry will assess the compliance by randomly visiting different offices during meetings and the findings will be presented in review meetings,” he said. “The ministry would do it seriously.”

DoPH’s officiating director, Rixin Jamtsho, said our health system could be burdened with NCDs in future if we don’t take proper and timely measures today.

He said public health must be taken care in order to take care of the NCDs.

“NCDs in the country are increasing and we haven’t been able to eliminate the diseases as we planned to,” he said. “From the Covid-19 pandemic experience, the ministry learnt that some diseases could be eliminated if we dedicate our services as we did for the Covid-19.”

He said the ministry would also conduct similar sensitisation meetings with dzongdags, thrizins, gups and gewog administrative officers soon.

The department’s lifestyle-related disease programme manager, Kinley Wangchuk, said unhealthy eating is one of the main causes of NCDs. “NCD has also overtaken the communicable disease since 2019.”

Meanwhile, a representative from the Bank Of Bhutan said implementing healthy refreshments should not be a difficult task.

Thimphu dzongkhag’s representative said it is not a new issue, but timely. “But we doubt how healthy the fruits are as we import everything.”

The representative from Bhutan Agriculture Food Regulatory Authority said they check everything that’s imported and make sure it is safe to be consumed.

“Eating unhealthy food is ingrained among the Bhutanese people and the ministry should ensure strict compliance,” he said.

Rixin Jamtsho said the ministry is already planning on strict compliance and people in the villages will also be sensitised.  

According to Health Bulletin 2021, NCD is one of the major public health concerns in the country. Bhutan started implementing the WHO Package of Essential NCD (PEN) protocol in 2009 and the People Centered Care-PEN HEARTS project, an improved version of PEN Protocol, from 2019.

The Bulletin shows that, in 2020, in every 10,000 people, there were 250.9 suffering from hypertension, 82.1 suffering from diabetes, 34.6 suffering from alcohol liver disease, 15.9 from depression and 19.9 from cancer.