City corporations have stressed appointing public health experts, especially epidemiologists, in the corporations to prevent non-communicable diseases and create awareness among citizens.
Around 40% of the country's population lives in cities which would reach 70% in 2050. The prevalence of NCDs such as hypertension and diabetes is surging due to the rapid and unplanned urbanisation in the country, they said at an advocacy event titled "City Leadership Summit to Strengthen Urban Public Health System" on Wednesday at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka.
"Although primary healthcare has developed in rural areas under the health ministry, the situation is not the same in towns as primary healthcare is under the local government ministry. The out-of-pocket expenditure of citizens living in the city corporation areas is increasing compared to the rural people," they noted.
Save the Children in Bangladesh and South Asia Field Epidemiology and Technology Network, Inc (Safetynet), under the guidance of the local government ministry and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention organised the event.
The leadership summit, attended by the 10 mayors from city corporations aimed to address the challenges of the current urban health system and its way forward to transform into a sustainable preventive healthcare approach and understand the role and necessity of public health epidemiologists in urban settings.
The mayors highlighted the public health challenges in their respective areas during and after the Covid period and explained the need for at least one epidemiologist.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter D Haas said the whole world has realised the importance of public health experts, especially epidemiologists, in epidemics for which more work needs to be done in this regard.
He said, "The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the poor state of public health systems in developing and developed countries. One recommendation that came up, again and again, was to permanently incorporate public health and epidemiologists into the city corporation structure."
Experts also explained how investing in public health and epidemiologists can greatly reduce the cost and impact of communicable and non-communicable diseases, said Haas, adding: There is much work to be done in the public health sector of Bangladesh.
LGRD Minister Tazul Islam said, "The city corporation has been empowered by law to provide primary health care. As far as I know, there is a proposal in the organogram to include epidemiologists in city corporations for which collective approval is required."
The leadership summit was held under the collaborative programme titled "Strengthening Urban Public Health System" funded by the US CDC.