June 20, 2008
Ischemic Heart Diseases (IHD) is the number one killer in Sri Lanka according to latest available statistics in government hospitals. The Director General of Health Services says that IHD has claimed 3762 lives in the year 2005 alone. Cerebro-vascular accident or simply a stroke, another type of cardiovascular disease, resulted in 2549 deaths. The number of victims has been rising because Sri Lanka is rapidly becoming an ageing society and this coupled with the resultant epidemiological transition is bound to impose huge economic burdens to the country in the near future.
To counteract the seriousness of this issue, the Ministry of Healthcare & Nutrition launched the Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention Project (or NPP) on 20th June 2008 at the auditorium of the National Blood Bank. According to the Director General of Health Services the NPP, which is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is a positive step towards launching a National Program on NCD prevention and control. More than a hundred representatives of government agencies, professional bodies, trade unions and non-governmental organizations participated at the launch.
The immediate objectives of the NPP are to develop effective and efficient strategies for controlling NCD, with particular emphasis on cardiovascular diseases, and implement them in Kurunegala and Polonnaruwa districts within the next five years. The experience in these districts will be the foundation of a national programme and utilised for scaling up to districts other than the project areas.
The roles and responsibilities of the key players in the project were defined by Dr. A. Kahandaliyanage, Secretary Health. A Joint Coordinating Committee will be the highest decision-making body with several technical working groups. These groups will be responsible for formulating a package of guidelines that may include manuals of operation, training manuals and behavioural change communication materials. Other than JICA and the Ministry of Health, the other players are medical faculties and local research institutions that are already involved in NCD-related research and prevention activities.
According to Ms Noriko Suzuki, Resident Representative of JICA Sri Lanka, the NPP is the first long-term engagement of JICA in the area of non- communicable diseases. JICA has pledged Rs.380 million to provide technical input towards the project as well as providing equipment and arranging for Sri Lankan health personnel to be trained in Japan. The NPP will be the model, the template and the source of wisdom not only for Sri Lanka but also for the rest of the world that are undergoing epidemiological and demographic transitions.