SEATTLE — In Slovenia, the most common diseases are a combination of non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological disorders) and vector-borne illnesses. These less common vector-borne diseases include Lyme disease and encephalitis, both of which are spread by ticks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared vector-borne diseases an emerging threat in Slovenia and plans to work with the Ministry of Health in Slovenia in order to contain the threat. As it stands, more than 7,000 Slovenians were diagnosed with tick-borne meningoencephalitis, encephalitis or Lyme disease. While the Ministry of Health and WHO are aware of the threat, Slovenians may not have the means to combat these diseases. While there is a vaccine for meningoencephalitis, it is too expensive for the general population to afford.
Although these communicable illnesses are a threat for Slovenians as well as neighboring countries, the more common non-communicable diseases cause more deaths. Cardiovascular diseases account for 39.1 percent of deaths, with cancer just behind at 26.6 percent. While cardiovascular diseases still account for the highest percentage of deaths, Slovenia has made great progress in eliminating the threat. In 2013, the Slovenian government announced that the number of deaths has halved in the last 20 years due to new initiatives promoting a healthy lifestyle. These initiatives include a national action plan from 2010 to 2020 that will reduce salt intake in Slovenian citizens, a nutritional policy plan, a physical activity program and anti-alcohol and tobacco legislation.
In addition to decreasing the number one cause of death, these initiatives are also helpful in decreasing another of the most common diseases in Slovenia — cancer. Anti-alcohol and tobacco legislation could help decrease rates of lung cancer and liver disease. Being healthy and physically active also decreases the risk of getting cancer, as being active helps improve hormone levels and the way the immune system works. Physical activity is important, as being overweight elevates the risk of getting cancer, with links to breast, colon, pancreas and kidney cancers. The government is already making great strides to decrease the health problems its citizens face.
However, there are other ways the government can help. While many initiatives are great measures to decrease the risk of these common diseases in Slovenia, the country could use more solutions to ensure that they are not deadly. One way the government can help save lives is to increase funding for cancer research and develop a task force in their health ministry to specifically deal with cancer. The government and aid organizations can also help by ensuring that cancer patients are diagnosed earlier on in the progression of their disease, so they have a better chance of surviving. Catching the signs of cancer a few months earlier can be the difference between life and death.
Ultimately, there is hope for fighting common diseases in Slovenia. The government has halved the number of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases, and its solutions can be useful in decreasing the threat of cancer. If Slovenia continues these helpful programs and adds some extra funding for vaccinations and early screenings, the health of Slovenian citizens will continue to improve.
– Rachael Blandau