Two young people are practicing dance sports at Lý Thái Tổ Flower Garden in Hà Nội's Hoàn Kiếm District. Experts said that young people need to do more physical exercises to prevent non-communicable diseases. — VNS Photo Việt Thanh
Trương Đình Bắc, deputy head of the Ministry of Health’s Preventive Medicine Department, spoke to Sức khoẻ & Đời Sống (Health & Life) newspaper about the measures needed to eliminate non-communicable diseases among young people.
Could you tell about the increase in non-communicable diseases among young people?
The spread of non-communicable diseases has risen alarmingly among young people and become a real problem for the health sector.
Recent figures from the health sector show that diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes are a particular problem among young people. Type 2 diabetes has become a childhood health problem with some patients diagnosed as young as eight years old.
Obesity, a shortage of physical exercise and consumption of many sugary and fatty foods have led to a surge in diabetes cases in people under 40, especially in big cities.
The increasing number of high blood pressure patients was shown in a survey conducted by HCM City’s Nutrition Centre, with ten per cent of students showing symptoms of hypertension.
Strokes are also a rising threat for people under 40, and some even under 30.
What are the main causes of the rise in non-communicable diseases?
I think there are four main reasons: smoking, a shortage of physical exercises, consuming too much alcohol and an unhealthy and unbalanced diet and lifestyle.
These reasons can lead to many other types of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
We are are facing an economic burden and high risk of fatalities caused by non-communicable diseases among young people.
In Việt Nam, fatalities caused by non-communicable diseases make up 77 per cent of the total 500,000 fatalities per year. More than 40 per cent of victims die before the age of 70.
What measures has the Ministry of Health implemented to deal with the issues?
Programmes on preventing harm caused by cigarettes and alcohol consumption.
We have policies on prohibiting the sale of cigarettes around schools, educating students about the harm of smoking, and prohibiting the sale of alcohol for those under 18.
The ministry has also adopted a programme on healthy meals in schools, which encourages healthy food and less salt in 3,000 schools nationwide.
The education sector is mapping out a plan to ensure children do physical activities for at least one hour per day.
The ministry has adopted a plan to prevent and control non-communicable diseases, focusing on cancer, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma from 2015-2020.
Specifically, it wants 60 per cent of people to have basic knowledge of these diseases so they can they can visit hospitals if they detect symptoms.
The percentage of smokers and alcohol consumers in 2020 must be reduced to 20 and 5 per cent compared to 2015. The percentage of those who consume excessive an amount of salt and don't take enough exercise in 2020 must also fall from 15 and 5 per cent compared to 2015.
The percentage of obesity must be under 15 per cent of adults and under 10 per cent among children.
Are there any challenges in the implementation of the ministry’s targets on preventing and fighting non-communicable diseases?
The implementation of the programme on healthy meals, for example, is not effective enough as children are overloaded with a heavy curriculum. It is not easy to add an hour for physical exercise to the current curriculum.
Education on the harm of cigarettes and alcohol is not implemented regularly. Moreover, many teachers don’t have enough knowledge to teach their students.
In many residential areas, there are no public places or playgrounds for adults and children to do physical exercise.
These challenges cannot be solved by the Ministry of Health alone. It needs co-operation from many sectors and public awareness to change old habits and adopt a healthier lifestyle. VNS