Non-communicable diseases affecting the young in Brunei
Azaraimy HH

One of the worrying health trends nowadays in the country is that heart and non-communicable diseases are affecting people at a younger age.

On average, people who face coronary problems in Brunei are 10 years younger than those in Europe. It is not enough nowadays to encourage people to practise healthy living only through medical-physical reasoning but through "emotional" reasoning as well, like making the public understand the consequences, for example, if they continue to smoke heavily what will happen to their families if they suddenly pass away.

The alarming trend was voiced by a panel during the "Forum Perdana" (Premier Forum) yesterday held in conjunction with the Knowledge Convention 2012 at the International Convention Centre.

His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office attended the forum. Accompanying HRH the Crown Prince was HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik.

The Knowledge Convention this year has focused on health. It is in accordance with the objective of the comprehensive National Healthcare System which will be one of the main contributors for the country to achieve Brunei Vision 2035.

The "Forum Perdana" featured three high-powered speakers comprising Dato Paduka Dr Awang Hj Isham bin Hj Jaafar, Executive Director and Medical Director of Jerudong Park Medical Centre; Pengiran Dr Hj Mohd Khalifah bin Pengiran Hj Ismail, Acting General Director of Health Services at the Ministry of Health; and Professor Dr Muhaya Muhammad, Motivational Speaker and Ophthalmology Practitioner from Malaysia.

The forum was chaired by Dr Dyg Hajah Norlila binti Dato Paduka Hj Abdul Jalil, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Professional & Technical) at the Ministry of Health.

Dato Paduka Dr Haji Isham, who is also a heart consultant and has experiences in dealing with local heart patients, said in 2008, globally, 30 out of 58 million deaths were caused by non-communicable diseases.

He said the number of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases is on the rise in the country. For example, in 2007 Brunei recorded 900 patients with heart problems and that number jumped to 1,300 patients in 2011.

He said what's more worrying was the average age of heart patients in the country was well below that of the European people. The average age of coronary patients in the country is 55 for male and 59 for female - who are around 10 years younger than that of patients in the European countries.

He said recently he had a very young patient at 27 years of age. According to Dato Paduka Dr Hj Isham, the patient has no other health risks other than smoking two packets of cigarettes a day since the age of 12.

He said if the patient continues to smoke, his heart will become weak and may stop functioning. Thus, he believed that if this type of scenario is not addressed and becomes the norm, the country will lose a proportion of its most productive population.

Meanwhile, Pengiran Dr Haji Mohd Khalifah bin Pengiran Haji Ismail noted that the nation has achieved successes in many aspects of health. For example, according to international reports, life-expectancy in Brunei has improved, while mortality rate among babies and pregnant women is negligible.

Among the factors contributing to the non-communicable diseases pandemic is obesity, high-level of cholesterol and high-level of sugar and smoking.

Pengiran Dr Hj Mohd Khalifah said this is a worrying trend in Brunei now. According to health inspection reports among government employees, 66 per cent are overweight, 33 per cent have high-blood pressure and nearly 50 per cent have high cholesterol.

Among school children, reports in 2011 showed that from 30,000 students inspected, 30 per cent had overweight problems.

The prime causes of deaths in the country are cancer and heart problems.

Professor Dr Muhaya Muhammad spoke on the importance of incorporating emotional aspects in an effort to encourage the people to lead a healthy lifestyle and quit bad habits such as smoking. - Borneo Bulletin (14 September 2012)