Fitch raises alarm on rising NCDs in urban Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Fitch raises alarm on rising NCDs in urban Sri Lanka

The incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is higher in urban areas at 18.6 percent of households, with the highest concentration in the Western province, which accounts for 28 percent of the country’s population and 38 percent of its household income, a recent research report outlined.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs kill 38 million every year around the world, and around 75 percent of these deaths are reported from low and middle income countries, such as Sri Lanka. Cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes are the four main culprits behind these deaths.

“Unhealthy diets and lifestyles due to increased urbanisation and higher incomes have resulted in an increase in NCDs that require extended care and medication. The proportion of Sri Lankan households with someone suffering from a chronic illness rose to 17 percent at end-2016 from 14.4 percent in 2006,” a special report by Fitch Ratings on Sri Lanka’s publicly listed hospitals released on Friday, stated. According to the WHO, Sri Lanka has however already set up an operational NCD mechanism within the Ministry of Health to tackle the burden caused by these statistics. It also has an operational action plan to reduce tobacco use, unhealthy diet, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity. However, the Fitch report stated that as most types of NCDs require expensive medical procedures followed by long hospital stays, a life time of medication and palliative care; it believes that state sector infrastructure is inadequate to handle the increasing incidence of NCDs leaving the private sector to fill the gap.

“We do not believe the current infrastructure in the government healthcare sector is sufficient to cater to the kind of long-term care required by an aging population and increasing number of patients suffering from NCDs. In addition, the wait for surgeries and diagnostic procedures at government hospitals runs as long as years, forcing patients to shift to the private sector for faster treatment,” the report highlighted.

According to the government’s Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016, 17 percent of patient admittance at private hospitals was for surgeries compared to 12 percent for government hospitals.

“We believe more people will be willing to shift to private hospitals in the medium term to obtain a more convenient and swift service, aided by higher incomes and increasing insurance penetration,” the report noted. According to Fitch, with the introduction of state-funded Agrahara Insurance scheme under the National Insurance Trust Fund in 2006, Sri Lanka is presently seeing an increasing penetration of medical insurance. 

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