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Call for formulating Health Promotion Foundation


Published : 24 Oct 2021 11:00 PM | Updated : 25 Oct 2021 01:16 PM

About 17 percent of the adult population and 13.6 percent of children in Bangladesh suffer from various mental disorders.

Covid-19 situation brings more negative impact on mental health. It is a non-communicable disease. The risk of the disease can be reduced through health promotion infrastructure as well as giving importance to public health. 

The risk factors for other non-communicable diseases will also be controlled effectively through the adoption of the concept of health awareness, as it is the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve their health.

The Health Promotion Foundation is one of the effective models for the health promotion infrastructure. Formation of such a foundation is needed in Bangladesh in order to accomplish the efficient infrastructure and adopt the concept of health promotion.

A ‘Health Promotion Act’ can also be enacted to gear up the health promotional activities. The current situation of health inequity in the country favours its necessity.

Against this backdrop, public health experts and rights activists viewed that the establishment of a Health Promotion Foundation in Bangladesh is a timely demand to focus on public health and control mental disorders and other non-communicable diseases. They said that mental health is an important issue not just in the Covid-19 situation, but forever. In this situation, it is necessary to take various initiatives in the short, medium and long term. 

Such initiatives should be taken to promote physical activity, healthy eating, social harmony, ensuring accessibility to all in open spaces, and building houses in such a way that there is enough space for sports. 

“For this reason, the Health Promotion Foundation can be formed following the example of different countries including Thailand and Australia,” said Gaous Pearee, director at Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust.

Talking to the Bangladesh Post, the expert on public health said that such a platform would carry out various programmes, research work, and advocacy activities for the development of public health instead of treatment.

The mental health issue is being given more importance following the Covid-19 situation. Those who are already suffering from the problem need to ensure that they receive appropriate services. In such a situation, the need to form a health promotion foundation is being felt more and more.  

At this point, Professor Shubhagata Chowdhury, former director of Laboratory Service of BIRDEM General Hospital, said that alongside giving importance to physical health, behavioral change is also needed in order to maintain good mental health. In this case, an experimental project can be taken up.  

It is important to speak with an open mind, while friends are also needed to maintain good mental health. Playground plays a vital role in making friends. However, there are not enough playgrounds in towns in Bangladesh. 

It is a problem for mental health in urban life. However, people suffer from various other non-communicable diseases due to lack of playground, open space, unplanned urbanisation and some other things which hamper physical activity and healthy eating. 

Khandaker M Ansar Hossain, an architect, and urban planner, said that profit-based thinking is creating risk for the future generation. Only Dhaka-centric planning is bringing a negative impact on public health. In accepting housing projects, it is necessary to give priority to open space and make the existing fields and parks accessible to all. While the country should be given equal importance in formulating the plan. 

He also said that sports should not be avoided in fear of Covid-19 infection. It is necessary to identify which sports can be played while maintaining physical distance. A Health Promotion Foundation can do such work. 

Saifuddin Ahmed, executive director of WBB Trust, emphasised the need for conducting continuous long-term activities for the development of the health sector. “We cannot improve our health system by increasing our medical expenses. We have to get out of the medical-dependent health system. For this reason, health promotional activities must be ensured,” he said. 

Health promotion law was formulated in some countries, including Thailand, to promote and support public health and form the Health Promotion Foundation. Such foundations are now in about 23 countries and all of the countries are playing a vital role in promoting public health and ensuring healthcare. By imposing taxes on tobacco products, unhealthy food, and beverages, the fund is spent on running activities of the health promotion foundation in the countries. 

Debra Efroymson, regional director of Healthbridge Foundation of Canada, said that such a foundation can also be set up in Bangladesh. The financing of the Health Promotion Foundation can be ensured with the money collected by imposing surcharges on various products that are harmful to health and the environment, such as tobacco products, sugary drinks, disposable plastics, over-processed foods, unhealthy packaged foods.

She further said that the issue of good health is related to physical health, mental health and social health. The Health Ministry works to ensure medical services. However, there is a need for a separate foundation that will work in coordination with the government on other issues related to public health other than medical services. In that case, the issue of the Health Promotion Foundation can be considered as a strong way to solve these types of problems, she added. 

Syed Saiful Alam Shovan, an anti-tobacco activist, told the Bangladesh Post that it is not only the responsibility of the government to ensure medical treatment but also to maintain health. So, the establishment of the Health Promotion Foundation is timely, while a law should be enacted in this regard like Thailand

Thai Health Promotion Foundation is an autonomous government agency outside the bureaucratic system of the Public Health Ministry. The foundation was formed following the enactment of the Health Promotion Foundation Act in 2001.

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