Combatting the threat of rising NCDs in Nepal

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Merry Jha

  • Read Time 2 min.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, refer to a group of conditions that are not mainly caused by an acute infection, have long-term health implications, and often create a need for long-term treatment and care. These diseases, including but not limited to, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral factors.

NCDs are usually linked to aging, but they are slowly and surely taking an unexpected turn. It is becoming a significant worldwide health concern affecting people at younger ages increasingly. Research indicates that NCDs cause 41 million deaths each year, or 74 percent of all fatalities worldwide, with 17 million of those deaths occurring in individuals under the age of 70. They are also predicted to be responsible for one in every two disability-affected life years and one in every five deaths among adolescents worldwide.

The rise in early-onset NCDs is closely linked to a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors. Unhealthy lifestyles, characterized by poor dietary choices, sedentary activity, and high-stress levels, are major contributors to the increased incidence of NCDs among young people.

Modern lifestyle has created a culture of convenience that frequently favors inactive pursuits such as increased screen time, whether for business, school, or leisure, has resulted in a reduction in physical activity. Concurrently, unhealthy dietary habits such as consumption of processed foods rich in sugar, salt and saturated fats have contributed to weight gain and metabolic abnormalities. The environmental burdens of NCDs is on an increasing trend as well. Environmental factors have an important influence in affecting health outcomes. Poor air quality, a byproduct of urbanization and industry, has been related to respiratory and cardiovascular disorders. Limited access to green spaces and recreational locations reduces opportunities for physical activity, which contributes to sedentary lives.

As most NCDs are driven primarily by behaviors that often start during childhood and adolescence including physical inactivities, unhealthy diet, tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol, they have the potential to impact child and adolescent health and bring about negative health outcomes in adulthood. Research indicates that almost 70 percent of adult premature deaths are attributable to health-related behaviors that start in childhood and adolescence. The majority of NCDs are easily preventable by adopting healthier lifestyle habits like regular exercise, quitting smoking, and eating a balanced diet. These straightforward, reasonably priced solutions have proven successful in a variety of global contexts. Merely implementing these strategies could result in an 80 percent decrease in heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes and 40 percent decrease in cancer.

So as we face an ever-changing landscape of healthcare concerns, cultivating a culture that promotes proactive and sustainable health decisions becomes increasingly important. It is therefore a necessity of the present context to address the increasing threats of NCDs in younger children and adolescents. Our education system stands short in enabling students to adopt healthy behaviors. In response to that, more vocational training should be provided to the school children about healthy food preparation at home, exercising and stretching in minimal budget settings, along with adopting healthy and health-promotive measures right from childhood. By embracing preventive measures and promoting healthy lives, we can all work together to reduce the burden of NCDs and ensure a healthier future for future generations.