Chunk of health budget taken by diabetes

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DEAR EDITOR, PM Rick Hou used the occasion of a speech he gave on Monday last week at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara to reiterate his concerns over the threat of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) for the future development aspirations of the country.

The PM was quoted in the local newspapers on 27 November 2018, as having said: “Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) pose a huge health cost to the government and the single biggest threat to the future development aspirations of our people and country.

“NCDs are killing more people in Solomon Islands today than all these causes put together, and still NCD has not been accorded the attention and priority it deserves,” Mr Hou said.

“Up to 70% of all deaths in the country today are due to NCDs such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, chronic respiratory disease and cancer.”

“Mr. Hou said NCDs not only rob our country of its intellectual capacity (due to NCD mortality).

“They also undermine the quality of performance of our country’s economic engine through a declining labour force performance resulting from NCD-related disabilities.

“As already noted NCDs result in higher unemployment rates, as relatives leave work to care for their loved ones.

“In some instances, children are leaving school early to care for their parents who suffer from NCDs.

“This is becoming a serious source for the rise in the level of poverty in Solomon Islands,” Mr Hou told the gathering.

“He said if we do not act decisively to halt, and ultimately reverse the current NCD epidemic, it has the potential to wipe out the cream of this country’s working population even before the impact of issues such as climate change – become significant threats to lives.

In separate statements made by the PM at the High Level Roundtable Meeting on the NCD Policy Roadmap on Monday he added (quote)

“Secondly, from the Economic lenses NCDs impose large (but often preventable) costs on already overstretched Government health budgets and the economy more broadly.

“Diabetes alone, accounts for roughly 20% of the health budget.

“A Pacific 2050 Publication by the Commonwealth Secretariat estimates that if the trend of diabetes in Solomon Islands continues at its current pace, the country will need an annual budget of US$37 million (SBD$303 million) to respond to diabetes alone.

“This is already almost 40% of the current total health budget. Put simply, this scenario is neither appropriate, nor affordable for our nation,” Mr Hou said.

“Thirdly, from the political stand-point the NCD crisis is occurring under the watch of the Political Government and leaders in Solomon Islands.

“Decisions made by today’s political leaders in our country will determine the level of the NCD crises in Solomon Islands tomorrow.”

Permanent Secretaries, WHO Representative, staff from the Ministry of Health and Partners from the Churches attended the Roundtable meeting.

It is recalled that Mr Hou made a statement at the Third High Level Meeting on Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 27th September 2018.

For my small part, I have constantly been highlighting the threat posed by NCD related complications, especially diabetes, and how the health services have become overburdened in having to cope with ever increasing numbers of patients suffering from NCD related complications.

A return to a traditional diet and less dependence on imported food products which contain too much fat and sugar is part of the answer to controlling NCD illnesses and there is a great need to give more educational advice on eating nutritional meals such as the Taiwanese health specialists have been providing in certain local communities and schools.

The Government might, also, usefully consider imposing a sugar tax on imported food and drink products, as recently intended to be introduced in some other small Pacific states where NCDs pose considerable health risks too.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short