Cooperating to combat chronic diseases

Updated: 2011-09-28 08:21

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

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Cooperating to combat chronic diseases

BEIJING - A senior health official has urged multi-department cooperation to better prevent and control the rise of non-communicable chronic diseases, which lead to 85 percent of all deaths on the mainland.

Kong Lingzhi, deputy director of the disease prevention and control bureau of the Ministry of Health, made the remarks on Tuesday at an event to mark World Heart Day, which falls on Sept 25 each year.

"Non-communicable chronic diseases are on a sharp rise in the country and are seriously challenging people's health," she said.

More than 3.7 million people die from various chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases before they turn 60, statistics from the ministry show. About 200 million people are suffering from hypertension and 90 million from diabetes.

"However, the number of government agencies which have fully recognized the sheer challenge from non-communicable chronic diseases remains limited and we lack a mechanism for cross-sector collaboration," she conceded.

Control of non-communicable chronic diseases is not technically demanding, but the "real difficulty is to implement existing intervention measures," she said.

Hu Dayi, director of the center of cardiology at Peking University People's Hospital in Beijing, said most chronic diseases could be prevented by practicing a healthy lifestyle, which entails eating a diet low in fat, salt and oil, not smoking, not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and getting more exercise.

He urged the government to improve public health education to empower people to make the right choices for better health.

Kong agreed and also pointed out that the government has the responsibility to help facilitate people's proper decisions.

"That task, however, could hardly be undertaken by the health sector alone," she said.

For example, the food processing industry and restaurants should be involved in the campaign to provide the public healthy low-fat and low-sodium food, she explained.

Similarly, when the government promotes a more active life with regular exercise, "check out whether there are enough places and facilities for them to do so," Hu said.

"The concern for public health should be integrated into policy-making processes of all sectors such as the food industry and urban planning," Kong urged.

Usually, policies from the health sector have an even bigger impact on non-communicable chronic disease control and prevention, experts said.

Take tobacco taxes, said Yang Gonghuan, director of the tobacco control office of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Once the government raises the taxes, the number of smokers will go down, so will lung diseases over the long run," she said.

China Daily