The government declared the entire month of October as the month for recognition of older people in the country. Health facilities across the country are providing health screenings, including screening for various non-communicable diseases (NCD) and assessment of mental health conditions for those above 60 years.
At the end of the first day of the screening, more than 1,100 elderly persons across the country were screened for various health-related problems. Most of them were related to NCDs.
We have heard doctors many times pleading not to overlook the major toll that NCDs are taking, both in terms of human suffering and cost. It is not likely that the plea will be heeded any time soon, the message is worth repeating.
The sad part is that we know exactly what the problem is. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically in the past few decades. We have left the fields and physical work for what we think are the comforts of urban living .
Meanwhile, our diet has not changed.
If anything, it has deteriorated in terms of nutritional value. We are not just talking about suja and chillies, and even doma. We are consuming more oil-rich foods and preserved junk foods from tins and plastic containers. And we are consuming a large amount of sugar. That is why hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, alcoholic liver diseases and mental health problems have become so common today. Serious problems like obesity and hypertension are rising among our schools.
These are mostly problems of a developing world, presumably because of lack of awareness of the importance of healthy diet and also because of poverty.
Our problem is manifold. We have had the opportunity to see the devastation that the changing lifestyles and bad diets have caused everywhere but we are rushing down the same path. We have a kidu-based health care system where the State bears all the cost. But the treatment of problems that could be avoided in the first place is draining the funds that could otherwise be spent to improve national health.
We have always claimed that we are learning from mistakes made by other societies but we find that we make mistakes other countries have made over and over again.
We also know that the answer is to treat the cause and not the symptoms. But our attempts at educating the general population have not been nearly enough.
Visit any hospital in Bhutan any time and a large number of patients are in the last stages of cancer or alcohol-related illnesses.
Today, the problem is not that we do not know. It is that we are not doing enough about it which might be a greater problem in the long term.