Doctors, researchers tie up to hold first-ever conference on non-communicable diseases

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-10-17 15:39:18 BdST


Doctors and public health researchers are coming together to discuss a key health concern in Bangladesh in the first ever scientific conference on non-communicable diseases or NCDs which are rising by the day.

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), icddr,b and British Medical Journal (BMJ), who recently formed a tripartite initiative called ‘Clinical Research Platform, Bangladesh’, will organise the two-day conference from October 20 in Dhaka.

BSMMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Kanak Kanti Barua at a press briefing on Thursday said NCDs are rising in Bangladesh.

“In 1990, seven out of 10 deaths were related to communicable or infectious diseases. But now it's just reversed – seven out of 10 deaths are due to NCDs,” he said.

The conference is aimed at developing a “strong platform and strengthening research collaborations” between clinicians and public health researchers in Bangladesh.

It also offers an opportunity to present and share their works on NCDs with national and international experts, according to a statement.

Eventually it will help develop pragmatic strategies for tackling NCDs in Bangladesh and achieving SDG target of 3.4, focused on ‘reduction of pre-mature mortality by one-third from NCDs within 2030 through prevention and treatment, and to promote mental health and wellbeing’.

NCDs – mainly cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes – account for 68 percent of global mortality, or two out of every three deaths.

According to the NCD Alliance, those diseases are spreading aggressively in South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, with the most worrying fact being that more young people in the region are affected by these ailments than in any other part of the world.

This results in financial hardship and threatens poverty reduction programmes, including national development.

The fast food market is mostly unregulated in Bangladesh with no government policy to control pricing and advertisements, clearing the way for global chains to enter the market.

Two burger chains of the US – Burger King and Johnny Rockets – have opened its outlets in Dhaka in 2017. Soft drink giant Coca-Cola has also opened its own factory in Bangladesh.

A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet in 2017 indicates the rise in obesity rates in low- and middle-income countries, especially in Asia, has “recently accelerated” while it has “slowed and plateaued” in high-income countries.


Food marketing and policies have been blamed for these trends.

Tobacco is also a major risk factor for NCDs. Despite a strong anti-tobacco policy, new companies such as Japan Tobacco are finding their way into Bangladeshi market due to the lax implementation of rules and regulations.

Global experts suggest a holistic approach to prevent NCDs, including a wider policy net of binding laws and regulations to address these lifestyle-related diseases.

But researchers of the icddr,b, which is acclaimed for developing oral rehydration saline in the 1960s, have not issued any warnings the Bangladesh policymakers about the new threats posed by food companies.

Dr Aliya Naheed, head of the Initiative for NCDs at icddr.b and Convenor of the Congress, did not comment when asked by if they had said anything to the government in a bid to deter these investments.

Acting Executive Director of icddr,b Syed Monjurul Islam said the onus of speaking out on did not lie with the health research organisation but with NGOs instead.

“We are public health organisation. Our character is not like the NGOs. Our researchers create evidence and discuss those issues with the policymakers,” he said.

Over 400 participants will present 200 papers in the conference. A jury board will select the best papers for award.