MANAMA, 17 MAY 2017 – The United Nations Interagency Task Force (UNIATF) on the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) conducted on 15-17 May 2017 a joint programming mission to Bahrain, where authorities say a multisectoral response is vital to improve health and control NCDs.
The Joint Mission found that NCDs – principally cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases cause 78% of all deaths in Bahrain and the probability of dying prematurely from one of these diseases is 13%. This means that nearly one of every five adult dies from NCDs before the age of 70.
Globally, the key risk factors for NCDs are tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol. The Joint Mission learned that despite recent progress in addressing NCDs and their risk factors the large majority of Bahraini are physically inactive, have insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables, one third of Bahraini are hypertensive and almost 15% of population are diabetic. In addition to that third of Bahraini men use tobacco, with worrying growth in tobacco and shisha smoking among youth.
The Joint Mission included representatives from the following agencies: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment and the World Health Organization (WHO), which led the mission.
H.E. Faeqa bint Saeed Al Saleh, Minster of Heath of Bahrain, said she invited the UN Task Force to Bahrain because of his commitment to prevent premature deaths from NCDs in his country.
The social and economic costs of NCDs in Bahrain are rapidly increasing, said Lt. General Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Chairman of Bahrain’s Supreme Health Council. “We expect the Joint Mission to help catalyze greater action to achieve our set objectives as per our National Health Plan and our proposed health reforms,” he explained.
He continued: “Levels of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, along with the lack of physical activity require urgent attention in our country. The Supreme Council of Health and the Cabinet will review the recommendations of the Joint Mission in order to increase our efforts to prevent and control NCDs.”
The UN Task Force reviewed the National NCD Action Plan and the National Health Improvement Strategy 2015-2018 in the context of Bahrain’s broader development plans.
During the visit, the Task Force met a number of high-level officials from a number of ministries across government, including environment, media and information, youth and sports, education, to explain how NCDs present a challenge to their respective sectors, as well as the national development agenda, and to identify concrete steps to tackle NCDs.
The Joint Mission members also met with the Service Committee of Bahrain’s National Assembly and with the Governor of Manama. They also presented a set of evidence-based interventions and fast-track actions to turn the tide of NCDs in Bahrain.
Dr Asmus Hammerich, acting director for NCDs and mental health at WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, said the Task Force discussed the most effective interventions for tackling NCDs, including raising taxes on tobacco products and unhealthy foods high in salt, sugar and some fats, as well as sugary-sweetened beverages. “These are highly cost effective and feasible to undertake,” Dr Hammerich said. “If implemented, they can result in dramatic reductions in NCDs over a fairly short period of time.”
Fareed I. Bushehri, Regional Resource Efficiency Officer from UN Environment Programme, also took part in the Task Force mission. He said “the environment is no longer looked at as an added burden in everyday life. It is an integral element of planning for future and sustainability.”
“The kingdom of Bahrain has all the essential elements such as high level political commitment, engagement of high level decision makers both in the public and private sectors, informed consumers and community which will path the way for moving towards changing to sustainable healthy life style patterns, improving the quality of life, achieving healthy resilient cities and meeting its sustainable development goals,” he added.
A mission report is currently being finalized in order to ensure the clear road map for Bahrain to focus on the prevention of NCDs to significantly reducing premature morbidity and mortality for NCDs to ensure that Bahrain is well placed to report at the Third High-level Meeting on NCDs in 2018, as well as at the High Level Political Forum where Bahrain will be presenting voluntary national review on country’s progress on Sustainable Development Goals implementation.