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Emerging Health Challenges for Sri Lanka in the New Millennium

Amal Jayawardane

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This essay examines the most significant health security challenges that will likely emerge in Sri Lanka in the next few decades.

MAIN FINDINGS

  • Sri Lanka has achieved a number of noteworthy successes in the area of health security. Infant mortality and fertility rates have dramatically declined, and life expectancy has increased considerably in the twentieth century.
  • A demographic transition is underway in Sri Lanka as the relative proportion of the population over 60 years old is rapidly increasing. This trend presents new health security challenges because the elderly require specific medical treatment and care facilities.
  • Non-communicable diseases have surpassed communicable diseases as the leading cause of death in Sri Lanka. Changes in consumption and lifestyle have increased the incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer.
  • Communicable diseases like dengue fever, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, as well as the possibility of a flu epidemic, still pose significant health security challenges for Sri Lanka. Even though the actual number of deaths by communicable diseases is relatively small, the infectious nature of these diseases is cause for public concern.

POLICY IMPLICATIONS

  • Sri Lanka’s rapidly changing demographics will present major health security challenges. The government must assume a greater role in healthcare because the traditional familial support system is no longer capable of adequately providing for the needs of the fast-growing elderly population.
  • In order to combat the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, Sri Lanka will need to enhance existing health infrastructure and effectively implement prevention programs.
  • Unlike with non-communicable diseases, the Sri Lankan government comes under direct public criticism whenever there is an eruption of a communicable disease. Therefore, the government must be constantly prepared for potential outbreaks.
  • Finding a peaceful political solution to the country’s still-unresolved ethnic conflict will create the possibility of diverting a portion of defense expenditures to health and education.