One of the nine the nine domains small Himalayan Kingdom measures in gauging its people’s happiness, the government of Bhutan places huge importance on people’s health. Bhutan still suffers from a multitude of health issues but despite free access to public health services and an expanding number of health facilities across the country.
One of the Governments biggest concerns is the rising burden of non communicable diseases. Estimated 42.4 percent of the population consume alcohol, significantly higher compared with some of its neighbours that conducted similar surveys in the past five years. It was also estimated that 28.6 percent of the population drink alcohol in East Timor, 19.8 percent in Myanmar and 17.9 percent in Sri Lanka, with additionally about 67 percent of the population in Bhutan are not consuming enough servings of fruits and vegetables, according to the country’s latest health bulletin.
In 2015, health facilities in Bhutan reported NCDs as the top causes of mortality in the country with liver diseases associated with alcohol consumption topping at the list.
As per the WHO’s estimation, communicable diseases in comparison kill 5 million people in the region each year because of the NCDs are the number one killer in Southeast Asia, causing the deaths of an estimated 7.9 million people annually. That’s more than 50 percent of the total deaths in the region.
The serving of alcohol and its consumption is part of Bhutanese customs and traditions. Alcohol is customarily served to guests and is part of the offering made in the ceremonies and rituals across the country. But widespread alcohol consumption in Bhutan has been associated with mental and behaviour disorders, leading to domestic violence and road accident.
Banatvala said that “it’s very difficult to get good clear figures, but you get the impression that about 34 percent of men and around 14 percent of women at least according to WHO Bhutan statistics, are using tobacco.