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Project March 1, 2013

Cambodia: An Emerging Epidemic of Silent Diseases


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One in three people around the world has high blood pressure, which leads to heart disease and stroke. One in ten has diabetes, which can lead to pain, organ failure and death.

Both these diseases are linked to obesity and rich diets, so you might think they're not an issue in developing countries. But they exert a tremendous toll, and it's getting worse – by 2030, for example, there will be 441 million people in low and middle income countries with diabetes.

Yet even with these numbers, preventive treatment is not commonly part of medical care in poor countries, nor is it a focus of many health charities.

In Cambodia, some health officials are trying to raise awareness and combat these conditions. Their challenges include getting people with little contact with the medical system to come in, get diagnosed, and take treatment. There's the question of what sort of treatment to offer, as well as getting people to change the culturally set, lifelong eating habits that can bring on diabetes and hypertension. Things have gotten so serious that public health officials are trying to adapt HIV/AIDS facilities to deal with diabetes and high blood pressure.

Journalist Joanne Silberner takes a look at what is being done in Cambodia to battle these two chronic and common conditions, and whether some of the solutions might prove useful in developed countries.


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