Medical Politics Society & Culture

Funding hiked for health awareness campaigns

The government has increased funding for programmes to raise awareness about harmful products such as cigarettes, energy drinks and sugary drinks.

Hassan Mohamed, the deputy director of the health protection agency, announced at a ceremony held Tuesday that MVR21 million (US$1.3 million) for 30 different campaigns in 2019.

At present, only one per cent of the annual health budget is allocated for health promotion and awareness, a sum less than MVR1 million.

Increasing the budget was a target of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s first 100-day agenda.

At Tuesday’s ceremony, Vice President Faisal Naseem handed a letter of appointment to members of the Health Promotion Awareness Board, a new body tasked with providing recommendations and technical advice for conducting health awareness programmes.

In his remarks, Naseem pledged to stop drinking energy drinks and urged the public to follow scientific advice. The cost of providing medical care for diseases related to unhealthy life choices is very high, he noted.

According to a presentation at the event, 84 per cent of deaths in the country are caused by non-communicable diseases.

Out of 1,300 deaths in 2016, 36 per cent was caused by cardiovascular diseases, 17 per cent from cancers and 9 per cent from chronic respiratory diseases.

On average, 460 million cigarettes are imported every year and 1.6 billion is spent on cigarettes every year. This accounts for about 23 packs of cigarettes per smoker every month.

An estimated 35 per cent of men and three per cent of women are smokers in Maldives whilst 42 per cent of women and 32 per cent of men are overweight. Some 88 per cent of women and 59 per cent of men do not get enough exercise.

There are over 40 brands of energy drinks in the Maldivian market. Energy drinks worth more than MVR80 million were imported in the past seven months.

By 2025, the government aims to reduce premature mortality from NCDs by 25 per cent, tobacco use by 30 per cent and physical inactivity by 10 per cent.

Under the programme, healthy lifestyle awareness programs will be piloted in schools. Selling loose or single cigarettes would be stopped and warning labels on cigarette packs will be changed.

In early 2017, as parliament considered import duty hikes for cigarettes, Health Protection Agency officials told lawmakers that raising tariffs alone is ineffective without a multi-pronged approach to help smokers quit and discourage others from picking up the addictive habit.

Full details are available at the link below:

Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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