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Public urged to adopt healthier habits

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A nurse draws blood during a donation drive in Daun Penh district. Heng Chivoan

Public urged to adopt healthier habits

While members of the public have been focused on protecting themselves from contracting Covid-19, officials remind people also to remain vigilant in maintaining their health and preventing other non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and strokes.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on January 5 that while everyone was rightly concerned over the pandemic, it was important not to lose sight of other common health problems occurring in daily life.

“We have many health issues to address now, particularly non-communicable diseases. Compared to previous years, we observe cases of high blood pressure and diabetes arising most frequently,” she said.

The ministry, in conjunction with the World Health Organisation, has been planning procedures for improving the skills and capacities of medical staff in health centres. Staff in these local facilities could be better equipped to help people with health issues before referring them to a regional hospital or specialist, she said.

“I also want people to start thinking from a perspective of individual responsibility. Oftentimes, people have gone to see a medic only after they have taken ill. We try to train our medical staff and improve healthcare infrastructure to encourage people to come for treatment, but we sometimes forget to consider who is in the best position to administer preventative healthcare.

“It is not the health facility or its medical staff but each individual who is her or his own frontline doctor – because they most closely monitor and know best about their own health,” Vandine said.

According to an Oxfam report released in early June 2020, non-communicable diseases were the leading cause of death in Cambodia, accounting for 64 per cent of the total mortality rate in 2018. It noted that treatment of these illnesses – and lost productivity on account of them – had placed a heavy burden on the national economy.

Vandine advised people to practice eating a healthy, balanced diet without too much salt, sugar and fat as well as exercising regularly.

“If each individual in a family could practice these things, then they will be healthy. Ultimately, every person is responsible for her or his own health. People should start to change their thinking and behaviour towards prevention rather than treatment,” she said.

Kampong Cham provincial health department director Kim Sour Phirun told The Post on January 6 that the department has programmes pertaining to various non-communicable diseases, the most critical of which now address high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Our department is always working to educate and issue guidance and reports concerning non-communicable diseases at hospitals and health centres in the province. We always pay careful attention to these issues,” he said.

Of major non-communicable diseases diagnosed in Kampong Cham, there were 444 new cases of diabetes in 2019 and 448 more last year. High blood pressure was diagnosed in 2,091 patients in 2019 with an additional 1,793 diagnoses last year.

Cancer diagnoses declined year-on-year but still saw 110 new cases beyond the 139 in 2019. Five hundred new cases of heart disease were recorded, adding to the 537 found the year before.

Phirun added that public awareness of non-communicable diseases was improving, and people were cooperating with health officials and taking care to reduce incidence of such conditions.

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