Concerns over high level of air pollution are growing as the country now sees nearly one lakh deaths a year due to respiratory diseases, the third largest cause of mortality, said health scientists from home and abroad.
Besides, people suffering from respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive lung disease that usually affects the middle age group, become burdens to their families as well as to health facilities as the illness takes a toll on their livelihood, they said.
Therefore, in order to prevent and treat such diseases, timely interventions are extremely important said the scientists during the first day of a three-day international meeting on respiratory diseases at Krishibid Institution, Bangladesh in the capital yesterday.
Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) and Dhaka Shishu (Children) Hospital jointly organised the second expert committee meeting of RESPIRE, an initiative led by the University of Edinburgh with funds from the UK.
Health scientists from Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are attending the meeting meant for discussing research projects on respiratory diseases in these countries for developing effective means of interventions.
Referring to the International Health Metrics and Evaluation data of 2016, CHRF Executive Director Dr Samir K Saha said respiratory diseases cause nearly 96,000 deaths in Bangladesh each year.
Some of the factors contributing to the respiratory diseases are smoking, air pollution caused by brick kilns and widespread use of firewood. Besides, pneumonia caused by bacteria and viruses are also major contributors to childhood death, he said.
Harry Campbell, professor of genetic epidemiology and public health at the University of Edinburgh, said given the extent of the problem in Bangladesh, respiratory diseases do not get the deserved attention, awareness and priority. “Such diseases make health services difficult for Bangladesh because people with chronic obstructive lung diseases and asthma are going to need healthcare for many years and it creates burden on healthcare facilities,” he said at a press conference.
Pneumonia is one of the main reasons for children's hospitalisation. Every year, Dhaka Shishu Hospital alone sees some 26,000 children with pneumonia complications, he said quoting the hospital data.
“If we can prevent some of these respiratory conditions, it would be a big contribution to improving health services in Bangladesh,” Campbell said.
Noting that around 1.2 million deaths occur in South Asia a year due to respiratory conditions, he said RESPIRE intends to create awareness of the problem, help develop human resources and develop new technologies to tackle the diseases.
Professor Aziz Sheikh of Primary Care Research and Development at the University of Edinburgh said RESPIRE wants to stimulate science and its capacity to tackle respiratory diseases, which have remained a neglected area despite the widespread toll it takes on human health.