By Phurpa Wangmo
Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with Mongar Dzongkhag Administration institutes public health advocacy program at the Kengkhar Gewog as the Pilot Program last week with the objectives to incorporate Public Health advocacy Program into the gewog annual activities and for health advocacy on current public health and social issues in the public meetings and Gewog Tshogdu.
The other objectives also includes to allocate budget for the awareness and advocacy program under the Gewog Health activities to support health screening and advocacy during public gatherings.
Public health advocacy and health screening have become priority activities to prevent and ensure early detection of non-communicable diseases (NCD) especially the lifestyle related diseases and nutritional deficiency disorders which is increasingly becoming a public health concern that accounts for approximately 69 percent of the mortality in the country.
Similarly, the people living in the rural settings including the lay monks are equally affected by the NCDs due to sedentary lifestyles. Alcoholic Liver Disease and Hypertension tops the comorbidities at Kengkhar.
Rixin Jamtsho , Officiating Director of DoPH said, “with the advocacy, it would help the public on how to prevent and to mitigate on NCDs.”
He also states with an example that if we know the cause, symptoms and prevention of diabetes, it would be helpful for them to visit to hospital for checkups and get medication on time.
He added that the main reasons behind the increase of NCDs are due to the lack of awareness among people leading to late medication.
The most common NCDs among Bhutanese are alcoholic liver disease, hypertension, cervical cancer, stomach cancer, asthma, diabetes, heart and kidney disease.
A participant, Chojay Tashi Said, “ I was excited to attend the advocacy program as the officiating Director from Department of Public Health (DoPH) and officials from MoH has organised the awareness on the cases related to high blood pressure, diabetics and other related NCDs. I was also told by Doctor that my kidneys and heart have affected due to high blood pressure. With this program, i got more knowledge on NCDs and i was also educated on how to care our health and to prevent from NCDs.”
He briefly shared his concern on the importance of attending advocacy program on non-communicable diseases.
The other participant who is serving as Chewog Tshogpa at Kengkhar gewog , expresses her gratitude to Ministry of Health for conducting the awareness on NCDs and educating the villagers.
Chewog Tshogpa said that she got knowledge on how to prevent the NCDs and to consume the healthy diet and also to limit the alcohol consumptions to prevent from NCDs.
She also added that since she is Tshogpa at her community, she is going to advocate this awareness back at her chewog and other friends who have not attended he program.
During the advocacy, the Committee for Public Health advocacy Program was formed comprised of the member representatives of relevant sectors (government officials), Tshokpas, village health workers and Chops (Lay monks).
The advocacy package prepared by DoPH, MoH was handed over to the local government (Gups and Mangmi) to use as advocacy materials.
They have also brainstormed and discussed the implementation of Key performance indicators to be reported to the Dzongkhag Health officers and Ministry of Health to report on regular basis to ensure effective monitoring of the Gewog health advocacy program.
The Local leaders including the Gups, Mangmi and Tshokpas agreed and decided to incorporate Public Health Advocacy Program into the Gewog annual activities.
The Gups and Mangmi will conduct health advocacy on current public health and social issues in the public meetings and also GewogTshogdu and health staff to help the local leaders in organizing the public health advocacy.
Public Health activities will be included in the individual work plan (IWP) and performance assessment framework of the Gewog staff including the Gup, Mangmi, Tshokpas and Health staff.
Gups and Mangmi agreed to allocate budget for the awareness and advocacy program under the Gewog Health activities to support health screening and advocacy during public gatherings in consultation with DHOs, Thrizins and Dasho Dzongdas.
The similar Program is to be instituted at all the remaining 204 Gewogs in the country. Thrizins, Gups, District Health Officers and health staff of the localities are responsible for the entire task as per the minutes of the consultative meeting conducted on 7-8 October, 2022 in Paro chaired by the Prime Minister of Bhutan.
The one day meeting and advocacy program was facilitated by Officiating Director, DoPH and Dzongkhag Health Officer from Mongar Dzongkhag.
The outcome of the advocacy was that the 90 percent coverage with public health education and awareness on priority public health issues at the end of 3 years in the gewog and also to reduced harmful use of alcohol and drugs in the in the gewog.
The outcome also includes reduction of mortality and morbidity due to NCDs and communicable diseases in the Gewog and also to reduce the maternal and neonatal death in the gewog.
Further, the recent screening report of the civil servants also showed that about 16 percent of the civil servants are living with one or more comorbidities and 23 percent were found with high blood pressure. The 48 percent of the civil servants were found with overweight and 23 percent were using tobacco/smoking and 52 percent were reported to be drinking alcohol.
100 participants have attended the meeting and sensitization Program including about 50 lay monks last week at Kengkhar gewog.