According to Hunter and Reddy (2013), disease patterns change from time to time. However, the rise and impact of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries have become a subject of concern in the recent past. The explanation for this trend is argued to be an extrapolation from the situation in the high-income and developed nations, whose experience is contrary to the development processes in the low-income countries. The epidemic of non-communicable diseases in the low-income countries remains the main cause of morbidity. Despite rapid economic growth and development in these countries, the burden of non-communicable diseases is evident. This situation cannot go unnoticed. As such, it has attracted attention of the United Nations and World Health Organization, who have gone ahead to publish reports describing the burden in relation to mortality and morbidity (McKeown, 2009).
Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD) and Infectious Diseases in Thailand and Sri-Lanka
South East Asia region is a home to a rapidly growing poor population. The emergence of infectious and non-communicable diseases in this region is, in fact, not surprising due to the demographic and epidemiologic transitions. In the developed countries, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, the demographic transition is characterized by a reduction in fertility rates. In such countries, lower share of infectious and non-communicable diseases and nutrition problems are experienced. With demographic and epidemiological transitions, health problems have become predictable. This is associated with nutrition challenges. Evidence is emerging in these countries that connects non-communicable diseases to the nutrition problems. For instance, poor nutrition during breast-feeding or fetal generation, a trend common in South East region, leads to increased cases of chronic non-communicable diseases. This issue is even worse among the populations with both infectious and non-communicable diseases.
Demographic and economic profiles of South East Asia are reported to be experiencing annual growth in GDP of 2 percent in the past two decades. This economic performance continually pushes up poverty rates in most countries (Hunter, Reddy, 2013). Economic growth has not been inclusive; hence, the number of poor people increases every year. Indeed, it is a matter of fact that South East Asia region has the largest concentration of people living below the poverty line. Two-thirds of the people in these countries are living on less than US $2 a day. Generally speaking, approximately two-fifths of the larger population lives in abject poverty. Like Thailand, Sri-Lanka is another country in South East Asia experiencing disease burden and risk factors. The burden of non-communicable diseases in this country is now more than that of the communicable diseases. In Sri-Lanka, demographic and epidemiological transitions are not as far along, it is same as in Thailand (Hunter, Reddy, 2013).
The issue of infectious diseases in Thailand is worrying. The number of deaths caused by these diseases is high. The attenuation of this problem is cited as the main issue that has impacted economic development of the country. Statistical reports by the World Health Organization show that 80% of the deaths in Thailand are a resultant of non-communicable diseases. Globally, non-communicable diseases are unequally distributed within the world’s population, often disproportionally adversely affecting people in the countries experiencing socioeconomic limitations or challenges. For instance, a study of regions in South East at the various stages of development reveals a trend for increased NCD in poorer populations. Most regions in Thailand have experienced increased angina-related mortality in the past few decades. Even within Thailand, there are regions with low rate of morbidity. This indicates that socioeconomic inequality plays a role. These findings are supported by the preliminary research conducted in the United States on association of low-income earners with arthritis. As explained by McKeown (2009), community social conditions play a potential role in occurrence of the non-communicable diseases. As suggested by Abegunde (2007), low-income countries (LIC) have a relatively high number of deaths from the infectious diseases. In 2004, the World Bank estimated that infectious and non-communicable diseases would remain the main cause of mortality in Thailand and other South East Asian countries in the following two decades. South East Asia contributes approximately 33% of the global burden of non-communicable and infectious diseases. Low-income countries have less developed education systems and programs. It is common that population in these countries encounters unequal educational facilities. According to the World Bank, non-communicable diseases are prevalent in the areas, where there is lack of education and other socioeconomic inequalities. Prevalence of angina, asthma, diabetes, depression, and arthritis is high in the areas, where education-related inequality is high (Abegunde et al., 2007).
Diabetes and Cardiovascular Conditions in Thailand and Sri-Lanka
Research indicates that diabetes and tuberculosis are some of the most common non-communicable diseases on the rise in South East Asia, particularly in Sri-Lanka and Thailand. A recent study of most affected countries in the world, including India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Thailand, and Bangladesh, found that Sri Lanka’s and Thailand’s populations have high levels of cardiovascular and diabetes complications. Once they are expressed clinically, treatment of the non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and tuberculosis complications, requires proper inpatient or outpatient treatment for a longer period of time than that of most other non-communicable diseases or acute communicable diseases does. Such treatment is sometimes very expensive. Given existing economic patterns in Sri Lanka and Thailand, the economic cost associated with these diseases is likely to weigh more on the larger population percentage of the people, who cannot afford it (Hunter, Reddy, 2013). These diseases are subject of discussion in this paper, simply because they carry adverse economic consequences. Most of the people in these countries do not have resources to cater for social welfare needs. People place less value on better health. It is highly recommended that subjects of these diseases are subjected to better or prescribed diet. Better nutrition is the only way to prevent or to cure diabetes. In these countries, food insecurity is high; hence, people cannot access the necessary food elements that help in preventing or in curing these diseases. Economic problems experienced by the larger populace in these countries make it hard for people to counterattack these diseases (Abegunde et al., 2007).
Challenges Associated with High Rates of Childhood under Nutrition and a Rising Epidemic of Obesity among its Lower Socioeconomic Groups while Undergoing a Nutrition Transition
As indicated in the preceding paragraphs, low-income countries are faced with nutrition-related problems. In its turn, these have affected the government’s efforts to pursue nutrition transition. To be specific, these conditions undermine the government’s efforts to establish food and nutrition policies and national dietary guidelines. According to Hunter and Reddy (2013), high rates of childhood under nutrition and epidemic of non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, pose a great deal of challenges to the health systems of the low-income countries. National governments of these countries must address these challenges of malnutrition and multiple non-communicable diseases. It is worth mentioning that these countries are also prevalent to fatal communicable or infectious diseases. As such, it is important to formulate certain ways and policies of handling them. Non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and malnutrition, vie with infectious diseases for the limited resources available in these countries. This tends to strain national resources. This challenge is compounded by the ineffective surveillance systems and inadequate diagnostic tests. In the low-income countries, financial resources required to ensure that food and nutrition policies are put in place, are not available. Poor health care infrastructure necessary to support these policies also poses another great challenge. In most cases, health care systems and policies are configured to provide care for the patients suffering from acute illness. Lack of technical expertise necessary during formulation of food and nutrition policies is another challenge facing low-income countries. There are non-physician health care providers, who can provide the necessary care based on these policies and standard guidelines (Abegunde et al., 2007).