l Tenzin Lhamo, Thimphu
The importance of good health for achieving Gross National Happiness (GNH) has been underlined in the Bhutan Living Standard Survey (BLSS) Report 2017, which was launched at the capital on December 13, 2017. The report states that health is central to the achievement of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and calls for a strong government, commitment to promoting equitable, free, and quality health service to all Bhutanese.
Amongst other findings, the survey also highlights living health standard of Bhutanese, which has improved in the last five years. Recent survey findings show that among the dzongkhags , Pemagatshel with 98 percent has the highest child survival rate followed by Monggar and Wangdue Phodrang with over 95 percent.
The survey indicates that over 20 percent of household members visited a basic health unit (BHU), 17 percent visited a district hospital, and 16 percent the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH). According to the survey, people spend a lot when it comes to health care expenditure, conducting religious rites (rimdo). This is a strong affinity of the Bhutanese population towards Bhutanese spirituality. Additionally, in country transportation, leads to high expenditure.
On child birth, it is reported that 94 percent of women gave birth in the last 12 month in health facilities. In 2017 the total fertility rate was 1.9 indicating that a woman on average bears 1.9 children in her productive age, which is within the age group 15- 49 years. In this area, there is a decrease in the total fertility rate from 2.1 in 2012 to 1.9 in 2017. According to the survey, it is a result of increasing percentages of women who received antenatal care and postnatal care for 2012.
On morbidity, the survey shows that among the Dzongkhags, Monggar has the highest rate of person (21.9 percent) who fell sick or injured, followed by Gasa (20.3 percent) and Bumthang (15.2 percent). Dzongkhags with the lowest rates of sickness or injury were Zhamgang and Dagana at less than 4 percent and Chukha, with 8 percent.
Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay said that the survey is very important. He said that the first good news was the fact that 91 percent of women have received antenatal care and 70 percent of the population in rural Bhutan, go to hospitals and receive antenatal care, to make sure their unborn babies are healthy. Lyonchhen also commended on institutional deliveries, saying that 94 percent giving birth in health facilities and hospitals is a huge success of health and health workers.
He added that the jump from 87 percent in 2012 to 91 percent is very good. “The good news is that our babies are not dying because they are receiving antenatal care and postnatal care children and are been born in hospitals.” While acknowledging the immunization program, Lyonchhen said the number of households with access to improved and safe drinking water is important for the people.
The survey also says that one of the prime components of the “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), until its end in 2015 was the need for improving health and health- related developments.” It mentions about the commitment enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan, which states that, “the state shall provide free access to basic public health services in both modern and traditional medicines,” and that “ the state shall be endeavor to provide security in the event of sickness and disability,”.
Meanwhile, a staff from the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) said 12 percent of all the households reported sick or injured in the last four weeks and 12 months to the survey. Out of 12 percent, 69 percent had visited health provider but did not stay overnight at a health facility. Between urban and rural areas, the data shows that the incidence rate of sickness or injury is higher in urban areas, with 13.3 percent in urban areas and 11.5 percent areas in rural areas.
NSB collected the information on the general health condition in order to get individual health conditions from all household members. Report says that health is central to human development, including social and economic development and access to quality health care promotes a healthy population, which contributes to economic growth.
The BLSS 2017 was conducted to provide the government with data for socio economic policy and planning, particularly for the formulation of future poverty reduction policies and strategies. NSB conducted the survey in the months of March and April, 2017, with financial and technical support from the World Bank.