Thursday, December 17, 2009

Non Communicable Diseases Threaten Cambodian Lives


Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and World Health Organization (WHO) officials announced that the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including cancers, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and blood pressure now are threatening Cambodian lives and affecting economic growth and social development in Cambodia.

“NCDs are still the main concern for the people in Cambodia. The diseases threatened Cambodian lives but also affected social development and economic growth in Cambodia,” said Dr. Heng Taykry, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Health.

According to a recent research study conducted by the Ministry of Health, one in ten adults have diabetes and one in four adults have high blood pressure in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Battambang provinces. 12 percent have high blood pressure in Siem Reap province. In rural areas, five percent of adults have diabetes.

Dr. Heng Taykry said that diabetes and high blood pressure are serious factors which cause stroke, heart attack, neuropathy, and cardiovascular diseases. Diabetes weakenss the urinary system, eyes, and other parts of the human body. He added that most of the NCDs were caused by four main factors including alcohol, tobacco, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diets.

To reduce and prevent the diseases from happening in Cambodia, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with other ministries, WHO, and other development partners have been working hard to raise NCD awareness among people in Cambodia, according to Dr. Taykry.

He added that his ministry has carried out many policies and activities to reduce the production, exposure, marketing and sale of tobacco, alcohol and unhealthy foods. They have implemented policies to reduce salts, trans fats, and sugar in foods and to promote physical activity through policies in urban transport, parks, pedestrian facilities, and mandatory physical activity in school.

Dr. Michael Thieren, WHO’s Representative, said that Non-Communicable Diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases, have become a major area of public health concern and are a high burden on the health system. He added that NCDs are now the leading burden of diseases in the Western Pacific Region and a major threat of morbidity and mortality in the world.

According to a WHO report in 2009, about 26,500 people die everyday from non communicable diseases in the Western Pacific, 200,000 of which occur in low income countries. With economic consequences of NCDs, the NCD situation is expected to worsen in countries and areas in economic transition if urgent measures are not taken.

“In Cambodia like any country in epidemiologic and demographic transition, public health is plagued by doubled burden of diseases. However, here, the issue of the Non Communicable Disease has emerged much earlier than expected, and with a much more alarming picture than in many other places,” Dr. Thieren said.

Dr. Thieren added that such measures are available: up to 80 percent of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and over a third of cancers could be prevented by eliminating shared risk factors. “WHO is supporting the NCD risk factor survey which will provide reliable population based estimates of shared risk factors of NCDs. Many of the risk factors such as unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, tobacco, and so on are matters of concern across a variety of ministries other than Ministry of Health,” he said.

He said that two percent epidemiological surveys indicated that, in urban areas, 10 percent of adults had diabetes and 25 percent had high blood pressure, while in a poor rural community, 5 percent of adults had diabetes and 12 percent were found to be hypertensive. In total, 300, 000 Cambodians are estimated to have diabetes.

He stated that in order to respond to the NCDs epidemic, the strategic actions put forth in the Regional Action Plan for prevention and control of NCDs should be considered and adapted in Cambodia. Locally relevant policy and regulatory interventions, population based lifestyle interventions, targeted clinical interventions and supporting strategic actions must be developed and implemented to build healthy populations and community living environments that support healthy choice. ///

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