The Non-Communicable Disease Alliance (NCD Alliance) warns South Asian countries including Bangladesh about the “aggressive” spread of the diseases such as heart problems and diabetes affecting people mostly in younger age.
“What’s really worrying that it’s affecting the people of the region younger than the rest of the world,” Katie Dain, chief executive officer, of NCD Alliance, told bdnews24.com in an interview in Mexico City ahead of the 48th Union’s Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara from Oct 11 to 14.
With about 15 percent of the total population diabetic, Mexico is one of the most NCDs burdened countries in the world. Separate lanes for cycling and 10 percent tax on sugar-sweetened beverages are some of the measures the Latin American country has taken to prevent and control those diseases.
Katie Dain said South Asian countries including Bangladesh should be worried about the NCDs as it becomes number one killer now.
“Estimated 8.8 million deaths a year which is 64 percent of the mortality in the region are due to NCDs,” she said.
“Around third of deaths actually occurring before the age of 60 which means that it is affecting people who are bread winners and in the years of the most productive year,” she said, referring to the economic consequences of NCDs.
“They should be earning money for family but they are impacted by diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.”
NCDs – mainly cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes – account for 68 percent of global mortality, or two out of every three deaths.
Those diseases were not been prioritized politically even 10 years back during the era of MDGs. NCDs were no longer in terms of health priority.
It is only less than 2 percent of the $22 billion development assistance used for NCDs during the MDGs regime.
There was no such collective forum to talk about all NCDs even before 2009 when the Alliance was formed by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), joined the same year by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and the World Heart Federation (WHF), and in 2010 by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).
The Alliance brought the issue to the global stage. The new development agenda, SDGs, for 2O3O kept separate targets to prevent and control NCDs.
Katie Dain said Bangladesh government is doing “some good works” to prevent and control NCDs with the national plan in hand.
Bangladesh is also one of the first countries that ratified the WHO convention on tobacco control back in 2005.
“Still huge amount needs to be done,” she said, “One of the challenges is most of the health expenditure is actually out of pocket”.
The government is not subsiding or covering treatment. It is actually people on the ground who have to pay for the treatment. Adherence to the life-long treatment of those chronic diseases becomes a challenge.
“Out of pocket spending pushes people into chronic poverty,” she said.
“What we have seen in many developing countries is health system in many South Asian countries is very much still focus towards infectious diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV. They have not really made focus on chronic diseases. We can see that.
“But they have to understand that young people are getting those diseases,” she said, pointing to the rapid urbanisation as one of the factors of those lifestyle diseases in poor and developing countries.
“Now poor people are more living in cities than rural areas, completely changes the way people live. It means people are no longer working in fields. They are working in offices, sitting daylong. They have less time to prepare food and get fast food from around the corner.
“Long time ago, 20 years ago people were cycling. Now due to urbanisation and road systems, people are no longer cycling. They drive which is increasing air population,” she said.
“Air pollution in South Asia is really a very big problem. And one of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and NCDs. So the whole way we live has changed fundamentally since 198Os increasing burden and epidemic of NCDs in the region”.
Next year at the UN there will be a high level meeting on NCDs during the General Assembly. A financing mechanism to pay for the treatment and management of NCDs is an expected outcome of that meeting.
But the NCD Alliance chief said they were focusing on domestic resource mobilization so that people do not fall into poverty to treat their NCDs.
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