Non-communicable diseases: a scourge in Kyrgyzstan


: A woman doctor examining a woman patient.
A health centre in Naryn renovated with the aid of an SDC contribution. © Aida Aidakyeva

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-communicable diseases are the biggest cause of death worldwide. On an international average 60% of deaths are linked to NCDs.  This rate is often much higher in low-to-middle-income countries.  This is the case in Kyrgyzstan where cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes account for 80% of deaths

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Kyrgyzstan
Health
Primary health care
Health systems strengthening
01.01.2017 - 31.12.2021
CHF 4'810'000

According to the WHO, the increased incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) has become a characteristic of low-to-middle-income countries. NCDs include diseases such as cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health conditions, cancer and diabetes. In Kyrgyzstan, NCDs account for 80% of all deaths. This very high rate can be explained by a number of factors, including unhealthy lifestyles led by some sections of the population, gaps in the healthcare system, and the dysfunction of family medical services in the areas of prevention and early screening. These factors have serious consequences in terms of health and public finances.

A public health care system in need of reform

The primary health care system has been weakened by the lack of financial and human resources in family medical centres and is now unable to fulfil the task required of it. As a result, people in need of medical help now turn directly to the country's hospitals, which are already overstretched. 

The system of primary health care must be able to treat the growing number of patients suffering from NCDs. To achieve this it is essential to: 

  • train doctors in family medicine right from the start of their medical training;

  • offer better salaries and career prospects to medical personnel to reduce migration to Russia and Kazakhstan;

  • provide incentives for family doctors to settle in rural areas. 

Phase 1 of the SDC’s project will strengthen the primary health care system to enable it to treat NCDs effectively in four provinces of the north of the country (Chui, Naryn, Issyk-Kul and Talas). Thus 2 million people out of a total population of 8 million are potential beneficiaries of the planned improvements. The ministry of health has introduced reforms with a focus on training family doctors from bachelor's degree level on and compulsory training in rural clinics. Phase 2 will concentrate on the provinces in the south of the country and will end with the implementation of the reform of medical training with a focus on postgraduate training and continuing education and training.

Prevention, an essential condition for sustainable improvement

The WHO also claims that a 10% increase in the number of persons affected by NCDs translates into a 0.5% drop in economic growth. Given that these diseases require long-term treatment, they are a considerable load on the health care systems of the countries concerned. Currently, in Kyrgyzstan, the cost of treatments in addition to the economic loss resulting from the decrease in the labour force is estimated at almost 4% of GDP. 

The causes of NCDs are manifold, hence the need to adopt a comprehensive approach that goes beyond the health sector and takes into account social, economic and environmental factors that have an impact on health. Prevention is therefore essential. The main risk factors include smoking, sedentary lifestyles, excessive alcohol consumption and malnutrition. Medical personnel have to explain to village communities the kinds of food and ways of living that are good for their health, in other words, forms of behaviour that help prevent diseases taking hold. 

This project is helping to improve the health of millions of people and to ensure equitable access to good-quality health care even in rural areas. The aim is to improve on a sustainable basis the well-being of the local population through prevention and promoting healthy lifestyles.