Thailand is a country in Southeast Asia, bordering Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, with a population of 69 million as of 2018. In 2019, Thailand had nearly 40 million tourists with an expenditure of $15 billion, decreasing to just $3.68 billion in 2020 when COVID-19 struck. Since 2006, Thailand’s national poverty line has been steadily decreasing from 21.9% to 6.8%. However, there have been alternate increases throughout the years due to outbreaks of disease where less developed cities have not been able to stay consistent with the national poverty line. Here are the top three diseases impacting Thailand.
The Top 3 Diseases Impacting Thailand
- Ischemic Heart Disease. This disease impacting Thailand is a non-communicable cardiovascular disease. Heart attacks or strokes caused 75% of worldwide cases, where there are often no other symptoms. Once diagnosed, there are treatments a person can take to monitor the disease, however, there is no cure. It is the number one cause of death in Thailand and has risen 35% from 2009 to 2019. In 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that air pollution causes 23% of stroke and ischemic heart disease deaths, where Thailand’s annual mean for pollution is 32 µg/m3, an increase of 27 µg/m3 from the WHO’s guideline of 5 µg/m3.
- Chronic Kidney Disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure cause 75% of all chronic kidney disease cases. These illnesses can also cause anemia, weak bones, poor nutritional health and nerve damage. A person may have a higher risk of having chronic kidney disease if they have a family history of kidney failure, are older or have high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure or are African-American or Asian. If the disease is in its early stage, treatment can prevent it from getting worse. However, if the disease has progressed and the kidneys are failing, the individual may need to have a kidney transplant as there is no cure. This is the fourth top cause of death and the second top disease impacting Thailand, which has not decreased since 2009 despite the addressing of other high-ranking causes of death such as road injuries, COPD and HIV/AIDS.
- Diarrhoeal Disease. Diarrhea is a deathly symptom of many digestive diseases, which is the fifth top cause of death in Thailand, especially among children and the disease impacts Thailand’s poorer communities. About 74% of Thailand’s population does not have safe sanitation areas. Additionally, drinking unsafe water and poor sanitation areas and personal hygiene have caused 38% of deaths from diarrhea. Having safe food and water to consume, taking zinc supplements or children breastfeeding can reduce the severity of diarrhea. However, if the digestive disease has progressed or salmonella, which is a leading cause of diarrhoeal disease, was the cause, the sufferer will require further treatment.
In 2017, the average life expectancy in Thailand for females was 82 and for males, just 74. In 2018, individuals either earned or received and spent a total of $292 on health care, which could increase significantly by 2050. However, from 1990 to 2019, providing effective and essential health services has only improved by 14%, from 57.6% to 71.6% of what satisfiable health services Thailand needs to protect its citizens.
The National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP) and the 20-year National Public Health Policy work to improve quality and security and have primarily looked at air pollution, TB control, malaria, HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnancy and unsafe abortions. While the top causes of death have sometimes changed, the policy should now focus on reducing disease due to stressful and unsanitary environments. The tiers currently include antimicrobial resistance, managing the health of the population by focusing on global health and trading, supporting migrant health by strengthening partnerships and services, reducing non-communicable disease by controlling tobacco, reducing childhood obesity and improving services to detect early signs of disease, and finally, improving road safety.
The CDC is currently working with Thailand to put into practice the WHO’s Global Hearts Initiative to reduce non-communicable diseases and death. In addition, the Thai FETP-NCD is researching cardiovascular health and disease in a bid to reduce premature deaths. There are also financial resources available for diarrhoeal disease, but there is only 50% of the support needed, and as it is a communicable disease, this number needs to drastically increase, especially in the summer when deaths rise due to severe heat, illness and disease that tourism helped spread.
Solutions to the Diseases Impacting Thailand
High blood pressure is a sign of stress that could lead to a stroke or heart disease. About 25% of adults from Thailand have hypertension, but almost half are unaware as there are no symptoms. To help irradicate cardiovascular disease, Thailand has set a goal to reduce 25% of hypertension by 2025 and reduce 30% of salt and sodium intake, where the average Thai consumes more than double the daily recommendation, via the Ministry of Public Heath’s 2016-2025 national sodium reduction policy and action plan. The plan focuses on surveillance, raising awareness, research and education for the public and companies so that the production of goods contains less salt and sodium, and people are aware of what and how much they are buying and consuming.
About 11.6 million people in Thailand have chronic kidney disease as of 2020, however, many people struggle to afford a health assessment or the treatment needed to save their life, especially in Northeast Thailand. The Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand created the Chronic Kidney Disease Program to prevent or delay the disease in order to stop complications. The program involves regular assessments of kidney function, diet-control advice from nutritionists, instruction about self-care and medicine with a handbook, overall health consultation and care and assessments from nephrologists and the hospital’s team.
The third of the diseases impacting Thailand is the most likely disease to affect Thailand’s poorer households. To irradicate diarrhoeal disease, water and sanitation areas require improvement. Thailand is currently planning for all areas to have safe and affordable drinking water, which includes reducing pollution and the dumping of harmful chemicals and materials, adequate sanitation and hygiene areas, particularly for women and girls, water support for nature and the ecosystem and starting international support for other developing nations by 2030.
– Deanna Barratt