World Health Organisation (WHO) handed over a refrigerated van, 17 sets of outdoor gym equipment and laboratory equipment worth USD 0.3 million (M) to the health ministry yesterday.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said the refrigerated van is one of the essential parts of vaccine transportation to maintain the right temperature.

The van will be used to carry vaccines from regional vaccine stores to the district hospitals maintaining the potency of the vaccine.

Considering the sedentary lifestyle of the population, Lyonpo said the 17 sets of outdoor gym equipment comprising of eight different equipment would be distributed to monastic institutions to promote physical activity.

A STEPs risk factor survey conducted in 2014 found that 39.2 percent of the population was overweight or obese, 35.7 percent had raised blood pressure and 48.8 percent were not engaged in vigorous physical activity.

“With rapid socioeconomic and demographic transition, our population has been exposed to non-communicable risk factors,” Lyonpo said.

Representatives from 13 monastic institutions across the country including Rangjung Dratshang in Trashigang, Autsho Namdroling Gonpa in Lhuentse, Kharchu Dratshang in Bumthang, Drupthob Thanthong Dewachen nunnery in Thimphu and Lhakhang Karpo in Haa received the equipment yesterday.

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, said a set has eight different equipment for different group of body muscles.

Nu 24M worth of outdoor gym equipment has been procured in the past with support from WHO and distributed to four major thromdes and all dzongkhags.

The essential supplies also include laboratory equipment for the establishment of a virology laboratory at the Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) and pulse-oximeters for referral hospitals in Thimphu, Mongar and Gelephu.

Lyonpo said establishment of a reliable virology laboratory is a prerequisite for a strong public health response to emerging viral diseases. “The virus culture is also essential in surveillance, diagnosis and monitoring of viral diseases as well as in understanding of the genetic changes in the viral genome.”

He said the establishment of the laboratory has become important in light of difficulties faced in sample shipment to another country for virus isolation, especially during emergencies.

National Influenza Centre will be established under RCDC. It will be a part of global influenza network and get support for influenza surveillance.

“The additional equipment that we provided hopefully will contribute to expanding the capacity of the centre,” Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said.

Bhutan Public Health Diary, a diary with health messages for all health workers in the country was also released yesterday.

Dechen Tshomo