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Poor Allocation Contradicts a Rising NCD Death Toll

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Bangladesh is witnessing an alarming surge in deaths attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). However, the budgetary allocation to combat NCDs remains significantly inadequate. Against this backdrop, public health experts have called for increased allocation in this sector in the upcoming FY 2024-25 national budget. Such recommendations were highlighted at a webinar titled “Budgetary Allocation to Combat NCDs: Bangladesh Perspective” held on 6 April 2024 on the occasion of World Health Day. The research and advocacy organization PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) organized the webinar with support from the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI). This year the day will be observed under the theme “My Health, My Right”.

It was informed at the webinar that NCDs, such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, kidney diseases, and respiratory diseases, are responsible for 70 percent of total deaths in Bangladesh. Several risk factors, including unhealthy eating habits, excess sodium or salt intake, tobacco use, lack of physical labor, air pollution, etc. are at play behind the spike in the prevalence of NCDs. However, the budgetary allocation dedicated to combating NCDs is alarmingly low, comprising only 4.2 percent of the total health budget. It was further revealed at the webinar that despite the World Health Organization’s recommendation for countries to allocate at least 15% of their total budget for the health sector, Bangladesh allocated only 5% of its total budget to healthcare in the fiscal year 2023-24. The government’s health budgetary support is one of the lowest in the WHO South-East Asia region.

Professor Dr. Sohel Reza Choudhury, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Research, National Heart Foundation, said, “The prevalence of non-communicable diseases can be controlled to a great extent by reducing the risk of hypertension alone. It is crucial to ensure the necessary allocation in the upcoming budget to implement the decision of including anti-hypertensive medicines in the drug list of community clinics along with reducing the amount of salt intake among the public.”

Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, Bangladesh Country Lead of GHAI, said, “Research shows that investing Tk 1 for hypertension screening and medicines can yield an overall benefit worth Tk 18. Therefore, sustainable funding for this sector must be ensured in addition to increasing the budget allocation to safeguard public health.”

Dr. Laila Akhter, Director of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), was also present at the webinar as one of the discussants. PROGGA’s Coordinator Sadia Galiba Prova delivered the keynote presentation and PROGGA’s Executive Director ABM Zubair chaired the webinar. People of different professions from different regions of the country participated in the webinar.

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