Non communicable diseases still a substantial challenge for Bangladesh

A newly developed scorecard shows Bangladesh performs poorly in reducing non-communicable diseases.

The Lancet has published findings of a new scorecard, measuring the performance of 23 low- and middle-income countries in reducing their burden of non-communicable diseases. The scorecard results show that many countries including Bangladesh are yet to establish needed actions to reduce deaths and disability from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.  

Grand South—a global network of 11 research centres including icddr,b—developed the scorecard as a tool to monitor and help improve the performance of countries with high non-communicable disease burden. The scorecard was developed as a result of a United Nations political declaration after a high level meeting in 2011 that committed countries to actions that would help prevent and control non-communicable diseases.

Sir George Alleyne—United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean and the chair of the International Policy Advisory Group that advised GRAND South—says, “Many actions are needed to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases, and the scorecard will help countries identify the gaps to be filled.”

Non-communicable diseases are responsible for half of Bangladesh’s annual mortality and account for 61% of the country’s disease burden. The scorecard identifies Bangladesh's low performance in reducing risk factors, conducting research and surveillance, and strengthening health systems in relation to non-communicable diseases.

Bangladeshi experts, who were interviewed for the scorecard, emphasized the need to establish a surveillance system for non-communicable diseases to address rising prevalence of hypertension, diabetes and obesity in adults in the country.

These experts urged primary health care centres to make essential drugs for non-communicable diseases available, formulate policies to reduce salt intake, consumption of high content sugar beverages, and trans-fats, and decrease marketing of unhealthy food for children. They also identified a need for a national plan to measure and address tobacco use, diet, and physical inactivity amongst the population of the country.

"Bangladesh has made impressive progress with the development a multi-sectoral plan for 2016-2021 to prevent and control non-communicable diseases," says Dr Aliya Naheed, icddr,b Associate Scientist and Interim Head of the Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases Unit at the Centre for Equity and Health Systems. "Strengthening the primary care strategy for early screening, diagnosis and treatment, along with financing and mobilizing communities to lead a healthy lifestyle are crucial steps to reducing Bangladesh’s burden of non-communicable diseases."

The summary of the scorecard results show that three South-Asian countries—Bangladesh, India and Pakistan—scored relatively low compared to other participating countries.

The Bangladesh results, along with a commentary article by Dr Naheed, are at:

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