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NCDs the reason behind 75% deaths in Sri Lanka

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By Shannon Jayawardena

Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have become a huge crisis in Sri Lanka with them leading to over 75% deaths in the country as per statistics of the World Health Organisation. Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne has also revealed that 137,000 people had died due to these diseases last year.

In Sri Lanka, NCDs cause more than three quarters of all deaths and nearly one in five people die prematurely from such illnesses. The four main types of NCDs that people often suffer from are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

In 2001 chronic NCDs accounted for 71% of all deaths in Sri Lanka, whereby another 18% were due to injuries and maternal and prenatal conditions. Analysis of age-standardised data from 1991-2001 has shown that the chronic NCDs mortality is 20-30% higher in Sri Lanka than in many developed countries.

Numbers have since grown and in 2014 a total of 103,500 deaths were reported due to NCDs. On the other hand, the number of deaths caused by diabetes in Sri Lanka each year is accounted to 10,000 making diabetes the highest observed disease out of the four.

According to the National Non-Communicable Disease Unit, one in five adults in Sri Lanka have pre-diabetes or diabetes and one in three of them are found to be undiagnosed. Mortality due to the disease has increased from 86 to 226 patients annually over the last two decades. 

While most of these diseases are caused by improper eating manners, the use of excessive tobacco, harmful use of alcohol and insufficient physical activity are the main reasons behind these diseases. NCDs disproportionately affect the poor, impoverish families, and place a growing burden on healthcare systems across the country.

Unhealthy eating habits such as the excessive consumption of fatty and oily foods is not only a main cause for diabetes but for all NCDs. Higher saturated to unsaturated fat ratio is also an important risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases which is greatly seen in Sri Lanka.

The NCDU said that their policy goal is to reduce the burden due to NCDs by promoting healthy lifestyles, reducing the prevalence of common risk factors and providing integrated evidence-based treatment options for diagnosed NCD patients.

They are also working towards reducing mortality due to these diseases by 2% annually over the years to come through the expansion of evidence based curative services and individual and community wide health promotion measures for reduction of risk factors. However it is one’s own responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle in order to stay clear of these NCDs. 


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