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Ministry mulls free screening for non-communicable diseases from upcoming fiscal year

A 2019 study on the prevalence of non-communicable diseases by the Nepal Health Research Council found that non-communicable diseases accounted for 71 percent of deaths in the country.

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KATHMANDU: MAY. 19 – The Ministry of Health and Population has proposed to provide free screening for certain non-communicable diseases to people above 40 years old from the next fiscal year. The proposal of the ministry comes amid a report that the proportion of non-communicable diseases surpassed that of communicable diseases among Nepalis long ago.

“We have been working to start free screening for certain non-communicable diseases,” Dr Roshan Pokhrel, Secretary for Health Ministry, told the Post. “We have been planning to carry out free testing for hypertension, diabetes, renal function, liver function, heart problems, and cervical cancer among other conditions from the next fiscal year.”

A 2019 study on the prevalence of non-communicable diseases by the Nepal Health Research Council found that non-communicable diseases accounted for 71 percent of deaths in the country.

The study was primarily focused on behavioural risk factors—tobacco and alcohol consumption, biological risk factors—raised blood pressure, overweight, obesity, abnormal lipid prevalence, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.

Officials at the Health Ministry said that it is high time to focus on non-communicable diseases, as the spread of Covid has declined significantly of late.

“Majority of us do not undergo testing unless it is an emergency and do not know if we are suffering from a serious ailment,” Dr Phadindra Prasad Baral, chief of the mental health section at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, told the Post. “A lot of lives will be saved if testing of the non-communicable diseases are made free.”

The study shows that hypertension, diabetes, renal function, liver function, heart problems, and cervical cancer are responsible for the majority of morbidity and mortality in the country.

Health Ministry officials said that the screening campaign will be launched as a pilot project from eight districts in the initial stage, which will be expanded throughout the country.

Officials said that they have also proposed setting up a 25-bed rehabilitation centre each in all seven provinces in the next fiscal year. These centres will provide treatment and care to people suffering from serious ailments like head injury and spinal cord injury, among others.

Public health experts say the increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases is a global phenomenon but developing countries like Nepal have been facing a double burden.

“Thousands of people are dying in our country from tuberculosis every year and the proportion of the non-communicable disease has also risen, which means countries like ours are facing a double burden,” said Dr Padam Bahadur Chand, former chief of Policy Planning and International Cooperation Division at the Health Ministry. “Along with ensuring free screening and treatment, authorities concerned should focus on launching awareness about changing lifestyles and its risk factors.”

A report of the Nepal STEP survey-2019 on non-communicable disease risk factors jointly carried out by the World Health Organisation, the Ministry of Health and Population and the Nepal Health Research Council revealed alarming signs on a number of issues—growing consumption of alcohol, tobacco, salt and junk food, and insufficient intake of vegetable and fruits—that lead to cardiovascular diseases.

Doctors say problems may vary in different places and authorities concerned should take a multisectoral approach to lessen the problems.

“Cases of renal failure have been rising alarmingly in our country and diabetes is attributed as the main reason for the rise in the problems,” said Chand. “If we can control diabetes in the initial stage, we can control kidney failure.”

-Kathmandu Post

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