Bhutan is at a crossroad of a triple burden of malnutrition, brought about by modern lifestyle and its related health issues.
Hunger is no longer a public issue - wasting has been brought down to 4 percent and underweight to 9 percent. Stunting, however, is persistent at 21 percent while overweight/obesity is emerging and increasing in Bhutan's population with 11.4 percent of Bhutanese obese and 33.5 percent overweight. Micronutrient deficiencies remain a major public health issue.
Anaemia, a proxy indicator for micronutrient deficiencies, is at 44 percent for 6-59 months old children. Over 35 percent of non-pregnant women and 31 percent of adolescent girls are also anaemic - an important indicator of future health as 6 percent of girls are married by the age of 15, and 26 percent by the age of 18. More than 1 in 5 preschool aged children and 17 percent of pregnant women are deficient in Vitamin A.
Non-communicable diseases (NCD) continue to be the main health expenditure in the country, responsible for 69 percent of Bhutan’s disease burden and 71 percent of deaths (2019) caused by hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. In terms of diets, the risk factor survey of 2019 records 86 percent of Bhutanese do not consume adequate vegetables and fruits, and salt consumption remains at 8.3 grams, significantly higher than the recommended daily intake of 5 grams. The nutrition status of children is no different with 3.9 percent of children under 5 years and 11.4 percent of school aged children overweight. School children are big consumers of junk food - 40 percent of students drink carbonated soft drinks and 32.2 percent eat fast food 4 days in a week