Three-day ‘blitz’ to focus on NCDs, mental health and accidents

YANGON — Health professionals, government officials, CSO representatives and spiritual leaders will gather in Yangon early next month for a planning workshop focused on tackling the growing problem of non-communicable diseases.

The Kyannmar Initiative Blitz will bring together more than 50 experts from February 3 to 5. The event is a collaboration between Partners Asia – an NGO focused on bridging the gap between local communities in Myanmar and global resources – the AO Dragge Foundation and Future, an innovation company.

Dr Jamie Uhrig, one of the organisers of the event, said the aim was to come up with innovative ways to respond to NCDs as well as mental health disorders and sudden health conditions like injuries due to road accidents and violence.

“People in Myanmar already have many ideas for solutions to these most common of health problems. The blitz is simply a first step for some of them to put new ideas into action,” said Uhrig, who has been supporting communities and organisations working on health in Myanmar since 1998.

Often referred to as “lifestyle” diseases, non-communicable diseases include cancer, diabetes, and heart and lung disorders.

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The event aims to build on growing awareness of the impact of NCDs, which in Myanmar have been less of a public health focus than well-known communicable diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

The National League for Democracy-backed government included references to NCDs, drug use disorder and unhealthy foods in its election manifesto, and Minister for Health and Sport Dr Myint Htwe highlighted the importance of addressing these issues in his first speech to staff in early April. A new national strategic plan for NCDs is being developed, with government, civil society and the private sector all having a role to play.

“The Kyannmar Initiative will both inform development of this plan and contribute to implementation of it,” Uhrig said.

“We hope that a sense of solidarity will develop among the diverse group of participants in the process and that several innovative activities will be developed for people to begin.”

He said the Global Burden of Disease Study – the largest collaborative health research project in the world – showed that the classical NCDs, such as heart and blood vessel disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and cancer, cause as much suffering as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, and maternal child health conditions. Mental health disorders, meanwhile, cause as much suffering as tuberculosis, while sudden conditions, such as road injuries, falls, and drownings, also have a large impact on the health of Myanmar people.

“All these noninfectious health conditions are increasing as the infectious ones decline,” Uhrig said.

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