DEATH from non-communicable diseases is significantly on the rise and must be recognised as a major public health concern. The Bangladesh Health Watch report, as New Age reported on Friday, revealed that 59 per cent of the deaths a year take place because of non-communicable diseases. According to the report, 17 per cent of the annual death now occurs because of cardiac complications, 11 per cent for respiratory diseases, 10 per cent for cancer and 18 per cent for other non-communicable diseases. The figures, giving a stark and acute signal, should be enough for the government to rethink the public health policies and programmes that were primarily designed to address communicable diseases. The report has also revealed that by 2050, elderly population will form the majority in Bangladesh because of a demographic transition. Consequently, the nation would get older even before Bangladesh becomes a rich or middle-income country. Taking into consideration expert observations about the current and projected scenario of public health, the health and family welfare ministry along with other stakeholders must prepare the healthcare system to pre-empt the economic burden of this epidemiological transition towards non-communicable diseases and better ensure health care for its citizen.
The treatments of non-communicable diseases, particularly for cardiac and respiratory problems, cancer, and kidney failure are expensive in Bangladesh. Physicians and public health experts have rightly pointed out for several years that the government has failed to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure for such diseases. Besides, according to experts, the failure of the government to check the adulteration of food and control the quality of ingredients is adding to such diseases. Air pollution in urban areas is also causing respiratory complications. According to the State of Global Air Report 2017, Dhaka is now the world’s second most polluted city in terms of air pollution which claims 1,22,400 lives a year. Moreover, the changing food habit that includes eating unhealthy processed foods on a regular basis is another contributing factor to the rise of non-communicable diseases. Public hospitals are, however, distinctly inadequate to treat such diseases and upazila health complexes merely have any plans to provide care for cardiac, cancer and kidney patients. In this context, the profit-seeking owners of private hospitals and clinics are taking the full advantage of the vulnerability of suffering patients, making treatment cost for critical diseases sky-high. The government, therefore, should change its health policy to give an equal importance to non-communicable diseases.
The government must, therefore, immediately involve all stakeholders to redesign the public health policy to address the diseases that actually affect people’s lives and increase budgetary allocation for the public health sector. The health ministry must take immediate and urgent steps to equip the upazila health complexes and public hospitals to properly treat non-communicable diseases. In addition, the government must effectively regulate and control the food market so that no adulterated food enters the market.
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