The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country.

Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a September 15 press conference on the ministry’s achievements over the past five years, listing cardiovascular diseases including strokes, Parkinson’s, cancers, diabetes, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer’s, chronic kidney diseases, autoimmune diseases, among others.

She said the health sector is a core element of the government’s Rectangular Strategy, and the ministry has been implementing its plans in compliance with the National Strategic Development Plan 2019-2023 and the Cambodian Sustainable Development Goals Framework 2016-2030. The ministry has improved the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare services provided to the people.

“Our health strategy is mainly focused on reducing illnesses and deaths among mothers, infants and children, and illnesses and deaths caused by communicable diseases, NCD and public health problems. In order to accomplish this, we have significantly strengthened the health infrastructure of the Kingdom,” she added.

She said the Ministry of Economy and Finance had contributed resources so her ministry could continue to its work, notably on cancer, nothing that the number of women aged 30-40 who had been tested for cervical cancer – the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Cambodian women – had increased from 0.26 per cent in 2018 to 7.02 per cent in 2021.

The ministry added that psychological examination and treatment services and drug treatment services had increased from 413 locations in 2018 to 454 places in 2021.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that besides concerns about infectious diseases, the evolution of NCDs was worrying.

“The increased occurrences of NCDs are a result of changes to people’s lifestyles. Improving public health and reducing the instances of these diseases is relatively simple, however. People need to follow a healthy diet and make sure they get regular exercise,” she added.

When it came to liver disease, Communicable Disease Control Department director Ly Sovann said Cambodia would increase the use of laboratories throughout the country. The available labs were of high standard and recognised by the World Health Organisation.

“We will use these tools to run a hepatitis elimination campaign by 2030. Hopefully, we will be as united as we were in the fight against Covid-19, because we have to reduce the progression of hepatitis to cancer or cirrhosis,” he added.

At a meeting with an Austrian business delegation back in May, Vandine asked the visiting delegates to support the provision of medicinal services and treatment for NCDs in Cambodia. She encouraged them to invest in medical technology to promote primary healthcare, in line with the Public Healthcare Booster (PHC Booster) programme. This would contribute to universal health coverage, she said.