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Dhaka Tribune

icddr,b: Four out of five elderly people suffer from chronic diseases

Experts recommend engaging multiple sectors with the health sector in controlling the multimorbidity of older people

Update : 02 Oct 2021, 12:03 AM

Researchers and public health specialists have appealed for strengthening old-age care and improving related research to control non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as a recent study finds that one out of every two older people has a common chronic disease.

It also says about four out of five older people aged 60 years and above in Bangladesh suffer from chronic diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, depression, and dementia.

Additionally, the study finds that females suffer more (54%) than males (37%).

The findings were shared in a webinar held in observance of the International Day of Older Persons 2021 on Friday by Dr Aliya Naheed, scientist and head of Initiative for Noncommunicable Diseases at icddr,b. 

Participants recommended engaging multiple sectors with the health sector in controlling the multimorbidity of older people.

The webinar was organized by the Global Health Network Asia and the Clinical Research Platform, Bangladesh. The theme of the webinar was “Linking Youth to The Wise for Digital Equity and Care.”

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The study also reveals that one out of every three (35%) older people have visited local drug stores in the last six months, while 36 percent of them visited private health facilities, 17 percent visited the government health facilities to seek care. 

The average health expenditure in the past six months of these older people was Tk2,429 or $29.

Among the older participants of the study, 30% were wage-earner, and they could afford the health expenses independently. Among those who do not earn their living, four out of five were dependant on the income of their children or savings, particularly the females. 

About 32% of the older people are receiving financial support, mostly old-age allowance.

Dr Aliya Naheed, principal investigator of this study, said: “We have surveyed 2,795 older people across the country and found an alarming picture about the health status of the older people in Bangladesh.” 

According to the national population and housing census 2011, older people comprise 7.8% of the total population, which is predicted to be doubled by 2041.

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“Thus, the government must ensure proper healthcare is easily accessible for older people and expand coverage of the safety-net services widely.” 

She has also emphasized on innovation and linking the young generation with the older people to strengthen the old age care services.

In a video message, Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, executive director at icddr,b highlighted the shifting pattern of diseases from communicable to noncommunicable among older people. 

He also said: “We should have more research and more collaboration to find out ways and means in tackling noncommunicable diseases, and the burden of diseases that are unique to people who are senior citizens.”

Dr Blossom Stephan, professor of Neuroepidemiology and Global Ageing, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, UK recommended developing a national plan, ensuring evidence-based practice, engaging older people, and developing partnerships with the relevant organizations to develop infrastructures for improving services for the older population.

Experts from Nepal, Bangladesh, and the United Kingdom participated in a panel discussion on improving old-age care in the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

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 Professor Dr Mohammad Robed Amin, line director of Noncommunicable Disease Control Program of the Directorate General of Health Services, participated in the panel discussion and briefed about initiatives of the NCDC programs that ensure NCD care in Bangladesh.

Professor Dr AKM Mosharraf Hossain, pro vice chancellor (academic), Department of Respiratory Medicine of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Bangladesh, has discussed the challenges of multimorbidity care for older people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Other panelists include Professor Dr Lochana Shreshtha, vice president of Nepal Public Health Foundation; Dr Sunil Adhikari, lecturer of Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Nepal; and Professor Trudie Lang, director of the Global Health Network, University of Oxford, UK.

Professor Rajesh Nath Gongal, vice chancellor of the Patan Academy of Health Science; Professor Dr Md Zahid Hussain, pro vice chancellor (research and development) of BSMMU; and Dr Mahesh Maskey, executive chief of Nepal Public Health Foundation, also spoke at the event.

“A Global Innovation Hub for Multimorbidity Solutions” – a new platform for promoting South-South collaborations in NCD multimorbidity research was also launched at the webinar. 

Professor Daniel D Reidpath, Senior Director, Health Systems and Population Studies Division at icddr,b inaugurated the new platform. 

“The Global Innovation Hub for Multimorbidity Solutions” is a collaboration of icddr,b, BSMMU from Bangladesh, Nepal Public Health Foundation and Patan Academy of Health Sciences from Nepal, and the University of Oxford and the University of Nottingham from the United Kingdom.

Professor Reidpath chaired the webinar. Researchers, clinicians, academicians, development partners, students, journalists, youth-based organizations, telehealth service providers, and public health specialists from Bangladesh and abroad participated in the webinar.

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