Health ministry plans to conduct nationwide screening for hypertension in coming fiscal year

The health ministry plans to conduct a nationwide screening for hypertension in the coming fiscal year. According to the ministry, the prevalence rate of hypertension increased to 30 per cent last year from 28 per cent in 2019. Despite the increasing prevalence, the Ministry of Health says, about 65 per cent of the population with hypertension are unaware that they have the health condition. Observing the World Hypertension Day at Thimphu today, the ministry says, this calls for early screening and timely intervention.

At the celebration, the ministry and stakeholders screened about 400 individuals in the capital. The day was observed at the Royal Bhutan Police headquarters.

Hypertension, also known as high or raised blood pressure is a condition in which the blood vessels have persistently raised pressure. The condition usually develops due to unhealthy lifestyle choices such as not getting enough regular physical activity. If not treated, it can lead to other health conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.

The ministry will integrate a comprehensive nationwide screening in the 13th Five-Year-Plan.

The screening at the Royal Bhutan Police Headquarters today marks the beginning of the nationwide screening.

“The programme is initiated by the health ministry along with Bhutan Stroke Foundation, Bhutan Kidney Foundation, National Medical Service, Faculty of Nursing and Public Health and Apollo Bhutan Institute of Nursing. Along with celebrating the hypertension day at the police headquarters, we are sensitising and screening them on NCD-related diseases,” said Karchung, Programme Officer of the NCD Division in the Ministry of Health.

Besides hypertension, the screening checks the body mass index or BMI, cardiovascular diseases health risks within 10 years, tuberculosis and HIV.

According to the ministry, the screening will curb the prevalence of other NCDs as people with hypertension are four times more likely to get a stroke and three times more likely to get kidney failure along with other diseases.

“Heart disease is the most problematic among them as the mortality rate of the disease is 69 per cent. 28 per cent of the population with heart disease is solely due to hypertension,” said Karchung, the Programme Officer.

”The number of kidney failure cases is increasing these days. Till now, people suffering from kidney failure and undergoing dialysis have increased to 392. It has increased to such an alarming rate. Doctors say that most of the people suffering from kidney failure is due to blood pressure. Today on this World Hypertension Day, as we get to work together, if we can prevent the disease through hypertension, the kidney failure cases will also decrease,” said Tashi Namgay, Bhutan Kidney Foundation’s Founder.

Experts say hypertension can be prevented through lifestyle modifications.

The upcoming nationwide screening will be part of Lifestyle Related Disease programme, which will be led by the Ministry of Health with a vision to put 50,000 people with hypertension on protocol-based treatment by next year.

In the country, NCDs account for 71 per cent of all deaths as of 2019. According to the WHO, the ex-country referral for the treatment of NCDs is increasing and currently accounts for five per cent of the health expenditure. The health ministry’s data shows that the number of referral cases and costs have increased significantly from close to 530 patients and a cost of Nu 81 M in 2006-2007 to over 1000 patients and Nu 180 M in 2012-2013. The ministry says the majority of these referrals are due to advanced NCDs.

Singye Dema

Edited by Phub Gyem 

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