Taiwan needs to improve health awareness: bureau

RISK FACTORS::The Bureau of Health Promotion warned that a number of risk factors, like tobacco use, salt intake and obesity, are affecting Taiwan’s rate of mortality

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Mar 06, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan needs to improve its health awareness, the Bureau of Health Promotion said yesterday during a presentation on the overall health condition of Taiwanese, adding that non-communicable diseases now account for 80 percent of deaths in the country and that national life expectancy was lower than in most developed countries and had recently been surpassed by South Korea.

“Sixty percent of deaths in Taiwan are caused by chronic illnesses, which are the leading causes of non-communicable disease deaths, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases,” bureau director-general Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said.

She added that there are numerous risk factors that need to be closely monitored by health authorities, including tobacco and alcohol use, unbalanced eating, salt and saturated fat intake, and physical inactivity.

The WHO has laid out a set of nine non-communicable disease targets for 2025, the bureau said.

Among them are a 25 percent reduction in premature mortality (ages 30 to 70) from non-communicable diseases, a 30 percent reduction in tobacco use, no increase in diabetes and obesity, and a 25 percent reduction in cases of high blood pressure, it said.

Chiou said the mortality rate for cancer, which accounts for 28 percent of deaths in Taiwan, is particularly high compared with other countries.

Taiwan’s mortality rate for diabetes and cardiovascular disease is also worrying, decreasing at a rate slower than in South Korea, which had a lower male life expectancy than Taiwan until 2004, Chiou said.

In addition, the incidence of fatal heart attacks has once again increased in Taiwan in recent years, defying the global trend and demanding attention, she said.

Compounding all this is that Taiwan is lagging behind Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and the schedule set by the WHO in the prevention of infant deaths, with an infant mortality rate of four per 1,000.

As far as risk factors leading to chronic diseases are concerned, Chiou said that although Taiwan has a much less obese population than many Western countries, Taiwanese are overweight compared to neighboring Asian countries and is ranked first in physical inactivity in 31 OECD countries.

Also, the number of male smokers above the age of 15 is higher than in Singapore, Hong Kong and other developed countries or regions.

Chiou said health authorities should ratchet up awareness about personal physical well-being and also work on developing institutional support and projects.