Chronic diseases increase among poor in Bangladesh

Washington, Oct 23 (IANS) The number of people in Bangladesh dying from chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension — long considered diseases of the wealthy — increased dramatically among the poorest households over a 24-year period, suggests a study.

The rate of people dying from chronic conditions between 1982 and 2005 fell among the richest 20 percent while rising dramatically among the poorest 20 percent, said the research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study, believed to be the first long-term study of its kind, also finds that chronic disease can worsen poverty, underscoring the importance of including chronic disease prevention and management in strategies to alleviate poverty.

“Our study is the first moving picture of the epidemiologic transition that is occurring in low-and middle-income countries,” said study leader David Peters, professor and chair of the department of international health at the Bloomberg School.

“Instead of a single snapshot, we were able to track changes in the same population over the course of two decades,” said Peters.

As life expectancy increases around the world, other countries will likely experience a shifting burden of chronic diseases, with poorer households spending disproportionate amount of their income on health care costs than better-off households, the researcher said.

“While the proportions of people dying from chronic diseases are rising across all groups, the poor are suffering disproportionately.”

Peters and his colleagues analysed data collected in a health and demographic surveillance system in Matlab, Bangladesh, which is maintained by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.

The study site is located in a rural area of the country and covers a population of about 225,000 people.

The survey routinely collected demographic information such as births, deaths, marriages and migration. Socioeconomic censuses were conducted in 1982, 1996 and 2005.

The study was published on October 13 in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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