National Health Survey Report 2023: Maternal, child mortality decreases; NCD rate rising

The country’s maternal and child mortality rate has decreased and health services have improved; yet the burden of the non-communicable disease continues to persist. This is according to the National Health Survey Report 2023, which was launched yesterday in Thimphu. The survey, which is done after every decade had over 40,000 respondents. The Ministry of Health and the National Statistics Bureau jointly conducted it.

The survey reveals that the mortality rate of mothers decreased from 86 per 100,000 live births in the last survey conducted in 2012 to 53 per 100,000 live births last year.

The child mortality rate of infants decreased to 15.2 from 34.1 per cent in 2012. Similarly, mortality rate of newborns fell to 9.8 from 21 in 2012.

However, the survey shows that non-communicable diseases or NCDs increased compared to data reported in the Bhutan STEPS Survey Report, 2019.

For instance, the prevalence of blood pressure increased from 28 per cent in 2019 to 30.1 percent last year. Likewise, raised blood sugar increased from 2 per cent to 5.6 per cent.

Similarly, the prevalence of raised blood cholesterol levels increased from 11 per cent in 2019 to 20.9 percent. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease risk factor for those above 30 has increased from 3.7 percent to 6.1 per cent.

Mongal Singh Gurung, a medical statistician at the Policy and Planning Department of the Ministry of Health said, “If you talk of institutional delivery, we are almost nearing 100 per cent now. From 15 per cent a decade ago to almost 98 per cent institutional delivery. But one thing shows that health has to focus on NCDs. If you forget about other things, even if you look at the four major risk factor which was assessed in this survey, all are alarmingly increasing.”

He also highlighted severe lack of micronutrients among Bhutanese such as Vitamin D deficiency in 91.4 percent of the population.

The survey shows risk factor of NCDs such as tobacco use significantly increased from 23.9 per cent in the STEP survey 2019 to 31.4 per cent last year.

The percentage of population not meeting the recommended World Health Organization’s level of physical activity increased from 7.3 in 2019 to 18.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Tandin Wangchuk said the survey will play an integral role while formulating health related policies and programmes.

“While we formally launch the report today, the validated survey results have already been utilised to update indicators for the 13th Five Year Plan and various programmatic strategies,” added the minister.

 The survey also shows that 1.8 per cent of the population have moderate to severe anxiety and 2.3 per cent have moderate to severe depression.

According to the health ministry, the survey integrates 14 health-related household surveys, which saved a lot of resources and time.

“By the way of the survey, not only have we shown that it is feasible, I think our rough estimates say we must have saved somewhere close to USD 6 M because of the consolidation effort beside the other benefits,” Mongal Singh Gurung added.

 The survey worth USD 1.8 M was jointly funded by the government, the Asian Development Bank, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and various UN agencies.

 Singye Dema

Edited by Kipchu

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