Chronic diseases kill 75 per cent of Thais

The News Desk in Bangkok/The Nation

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Thai Public Health minister Witthaya Buranasiri yesterday urged an international effort, including among the 10 Asean countries, to implement measures to curb noncommunicable chronic diseases - such as coronary vascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

He said these diseases cause immense losses - 41 million people will die from them in the next three years.

Noncommunicable chronic diseases (NCDs) were spreading and claimed 35 million lives in 2005, many from 30 to 69 years of age and 80 per cent of them in developing and underdeveloped countries.

These diseases caused three quarters of the deaths in Thailand and cost the country around 140 billion baht (US$4.4 billion) each year, he said.

In 2009, there were 60,000 deaths from NCDs in Thailand - 29 per cent of them among people under 60 - and in that year Thailand spent 141.8 billion baht on medical bills and related expenses, about 1.6 per cent of national incomes.

Witthaya spoke yesterday at a seminar of health agencies and organisations from Asean nations, plus the US and Switzerland.

The seminar was linked to the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which Thailand hosted last week.

Southeast Asian countries would make up the Asean Community in 2015 under the theme "One Vision, One Identity, One Community"- meaning also one health. Witthaya urged them to formulate an action plan to control and prevent noncommunicable diseases for public wellbeing and extend it worldwide.

For the measures to succeed laws must be passed and taxes imposed on unhealthy products, like cigarettes and alcoholic drinks; standards for food and health products set; and products that promote health such as organic vegetables and gyms must be encouraged, he said.

Thailand has already set a strategy for healthy lifestyles from 2011 to 2020. This included healthy diets, exercising, cutting smoking and alcohol drinking, as well as screening for people at risk of disease, he said.