Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are spreading in Pakistan at an alarming rate. In fact, NCDs are as prevalent in Pakistan as communicable diseases.
A joint research study carried out by the Aga Khan University and the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association has indicated that an estimated 32 million people in Pakistan suffer from a heart condition; 40 million from hypertension; eight million from diabetes; 18 million from high cholesterol; and about 50 million from mental disorders. Around 24 million people in the country are obese. These conditions fall under NCDs.
According to recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 2,000 people die every day because of NCDs. Data has revealed that around 40 million people die each year because of these diseases, which is equivalent to 70 percent of all deaths globally. Every year, cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths (17.7 million), followed by cancer (8.8 million); respiratory diseases (3.9million); and diabetes (1.6 million). On an average, NCDs are the cause of over 80 percent of premature deaths that occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Viewed as a particular threat to Pakistan, it is estimated that by 2020, two out of three people in the country will suffer from NCDs. Taking into account the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs, the country needs to develop a multi-sectoral national NCD plan. It is also important to improve the quality of health services.
Pakistan’s capacity to address and respond to NCDs appears to be quite negligible. In Pakistan’s context, it is estimated that by 2020, two out of three people in the country will suffer from NCDs. Taking into account the Global Action Plan for the prevention and control of NCDs, the country needs to develop a multi-sectoral national NCD plan on an urgent basis.
In these circumstances, who do we blame? There is a strong need for policymakers to come up with a firm action plan regarding this issue. The federal and provincial governments must spring into action. In addition, the private sector needs to step in and take suitable measures. Large pharmaceutical companies and private hospitals need to play their part as well. Moreover, the people need to be made aware of the problem. It is only through these means that the spread of non-communicable diseases can be prevented.
It is commendable that many pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan are showing their support for combating non-communicable diseases. They are either finding ways to control these diseases or are, at the very least, providing succour to those segments of the population that cannot afford treatment.
A Swiss-based multinational company has taken the initiative of offering an Access Programme, which is aimed at providing quality medicines for just $1 every month per treatment, supplying a basket of high-quality FDA-approved imported medicines. This programme is geared towards the non-affording patients, who are victims of spurious and substandard drugs. The cost for the initiative is less than a day’s meal.
The aim of this initiative is to give the people of Pakistan the same quality of medicines that are provided across the world. This company has been working towards this cause for a long time. In fact, it has already signed a MoU with the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination and Government of Punjab.
The state of Pakistan’s health sector is in dire need of improvement. In terms of both communicable and NCDs, the country is witnessing an increasing number of people falling prey to various ailments every day. This growing trend must be tackled through the joint efforts of the government, the pharmaceutical sector and the people.