UNIATF to fight Non-Communicable Diseases | Daily News

UNIATF to fight Non-Communicable Diseases

The Joint Mission of the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force (UNIATF) is committed to prevent and control Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Sri Lanka. Cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases cause 70 percent of hospital deaths in the country, WHO Resident Representative Jacob Kumaresan said at a press conference in Colombo recently.

The programme to prevent Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is a collaborative effort, led by the Health Ministry and the government, Health Services Director General Dr. Palitha Mahipala said. He said the nation used conventional and traditional methods of intervention, to prevent and control NCDs. The floor is open for people to suggest new interventions. "We have a huge disease burden in Sri Lanka," he said.

NCDs are primarily caused by tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy eating and physical inactivity, according to a presentation by WHO Representative Kumaresan.

"The Director General has spoken of universal health coverage. Health systems are an important part of our progress," he said. Sri Lanka has adopted 10 targets under the guidance of the UNIATF, to be fulfilled by 2025. Regular reports are sent to the UN to keep track of the progress of the targets - of the 18 specific targets, four have been achieved, 11 partially achieved and three not achieved. Policies on salt and sodium intake, on transfats and fatty acids, and marketing to children restrictions, make up the policies that are yet to be achieved," he said.

Sri Lanka is the first country in the South East Asian region to ratify the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, while there are more than 700 functional Healthy Lifestyle Centers in the country. The availability of essential NCD drugs has increased over a few years from 2 percent to 40 percent. Several UN agencies are working alongside the UNIATF to help the Ministries of Finance, Education, Sports, Agriculture, Megapolis and Women and Children's Affairs. Collaborative efforts towards healthier living, to battle NCDs, include the Education Ministry's endeavor to ensure physical exercise and healthy diets in schools, and the Agriculture Ministry's promotion of fruit and vegetable gardening, Kumaresan said.

The Joint Mission of the UNIATF is striving to bring about change to reduce the number of premature deaths in Sri Lanka. While their target for battling NCDs, in collaboration with ministries and several professional organizations, is set for 2025, the next pit-stop for evaluation by the UN will be 2018, Deputy DG Medical Services Dr. Lakshmi Somatunge said. 

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