Precaution better than cureIncreased consumption of processed food is behind the rise in cardiovascular conditions.
Amid growing concerns that the proportion of non-communicable diseases surpassed communicable diseases, the Ministry of Health and Population has proposed to provide free screening for people above the age of forty. In a laudable act, the government has offered free screening for hypertension, renal function, liver function, heart function and cervical cancer, among other conditions, from the next fiscal year. The Covid-19 pandemic, for all its ills, has enabled us to reflect on our shortcomings, especially in the health sector.
Countries with crippling health infrastructures were undoubtedly the most affected by the Covid-19 virus; hence a timely step to revamp our measures in tackling health issues is a welcome step in the right direction. In the past two years, there was an exclusive focus on fighting the global pandemic, which was the need of the hour. But with governments taking extreme measures to contain the pandemic, people were prevented from accessing medical help to fight other crucial ailments. The prioritisation of containing Covid-19 has come at the cost of ignoring a latent but deadly disease.
A study conducted by the Nepal Health Research Council in 2019 on the prevalence of non-communicable diseases stated that they accounted for 71 percent of deaths in the country. The finding exposed an overlooked area that many had taken for granted. People in Nepal usually take medical counsel only after being afflicted by a severe ailment. It is often too little too late by the time doctors uncover the sickness. Considering the behavioural pattern of the people, it is appropriate that the government has taken steps to tackle this silent killer. Early screening will forewarn people to take timely corrective actions, and in turn, ease their financial burden, which can otherwise act as a deterrent for many in seeking medical help.
The trail of most non-communicable diseases inadvertently leads to lifestyle issues—lack of a healthy lifestyle, or in some cases, dietary negligence. Increased consumption of processed food with an unusually high sodium content is responsible for the rise in cardiovascular conditions. With more people now relegated to sedentary working patterns, the incidences are set to rise further, leading to more premature deaths. The government's initiative may increase awareness in containing the impact of diet and lifestyle on non-communicable diseases. Still, the burden of responsibility rests heavily on the people themselves.
With an appetite for delicacies to appease culinary desires, Nepalis fail to realise that there is much at stake in excessive indulgence. Several studies jointly carried out by organisations of repute with the Ministry of Health and Population point to the fact that Nepalis consume excessive amounts of iodine, which has resulted in the prevalence of hyperthyroidism. Clearly, it is a case of excesses. If we are to ever realise any meaningful gains in tackling non-communicable diseases, then the process of containing them rests primarily on individual endeavours.