Transnational health research comes to Thailand

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Transnational health research comes to Thailand

In a welcome nod to the generally high level and quality of the national health system, Thailand has been chosen as a member of the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD).

The GACD is a group of health research organisations from Australia, Canada, China, the European Commission, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States who engage in transnational health research to track chronic diseases, especially those of the non-communicable kind. Non-communicable diseases killed more than 30 million people worldwide in 2008.

An agreement bringing Thailand into the broader GACD grouping was signed in Bangkok on 6 November, making it the only nation in Southeast Asia to become a member.

The director of the Thailand Health Systems Research Institute said the four most common chronic non-communicable diseases were alcoholism, cigarette smoking, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and cancer.

The GACD chose Thailand ahead of other Southeast Asian nations because of its overall infrastructure, research track record, and universal healthcare system. Nonetheless, Thailand is accorded what the GACD terms Low and Middle Income Status (LMIC) and has been teamed with Canada as its Developed Nation partner for the forseeable future.

The GACD alliance is looking to Thailand to be a core centre concentrating on research into chronic lung diseases. Once this aspect has been put in train, it is expected that Thailand will be tasked with further topics for research in the future.

Current plans are for Thai researchers to report to the GACD at a special meeting once a year. Research results from each country are then usually implemented by the government’s of the relevant country.

The Thailand Health Systems Research Institute said it had been working towards establishing a relationship with the GACD for the past two years, aiming to give Thai medical professionals the opportunity work in an international platform.

The Institute noted that health expenditure accounts for about 4.2 percent of Thailand’s GDP and out of this, around 60 percent is spent treating non-communicable diseases.

According to figures available to the World Health Organisation (WHO), but only up to 2012, there were half a million deaths in Thailand between 2000 and 2012 and an estimated 71 percent of these were from non-communicable diseases. Cardiovascular diseases accounted for 29 percent of the total.

Health professionals in Thailand are well aware of the need to tackle the non-communicable diseases issue, with health expenditure expected to rise to 6.6 percent of GDP within the next decade. At present the health budget per capita stands at above 6,000 baht per annum, which is significantly higher than the average across the region.