Let’s join hands against non-communicable diseases: WHO

KATHMANDU, April 24: The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for enhanced partnership to curb non-communicable diseases which it states are top killers in the South-East Asia region, causing an estimated 7.9 million deaths every year. Issuing a press statement on the eve of the meeting of health experts, policy makers and partners from 11 member states of the region in Yangon, Myanmar, WHO stated that interventions are needed from multiple sectors such as health education, food and nutrition, environment, transport and communications to curb non-communicable diseases.[break] Cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and mental disorders can be prevented, according to WHO, through effective public health approaches that address risk factors, such as tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and harmful use of alcohol. Community education and the use of appropriate technology to address equity and social justice issues are also needed to tackle these diseases, the press statement added. The two-day meeting of representatives from Bangladesh, Bhutan, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste starting April 25 will also discuss projects on mental health, including strengthening of primary care to deliver mental health care, reducing harm from alcohol use and promotion of mental well-being in the communities. "The reported burden of non-communicable diseases in South-East Asia is just the tip of the iceberg. A public health approach with appropriate research is urgently needed to bring this invisible portion to our attention for action," the statement quoted WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia Dr Samlee Plianbangchang as saying, "Our current health systems are highly skewed towards medical care despite undisputable evidence that public health interventions are much more cost effective. This is disheartening because resources for health are scarce and the health systems are overstretched." The meeting is also expected to discuss better handling of mental and neurological disorders which WHO identified among the leading cause of disability for people affected and their families.