Background: The epidemic of chronic diseases is largely neglected. Although a threatening burden of chronic diseases is emerging, developing public health efforts for their prevention and control is not yet a priority for trans-national and national health policy makers. Understanding the population burden of risk factors which predict chronic diseases is an important step in reducing the impact of the diseases themselves.
Objective: This thesis responds to the increasing burden of chronic diseases worldwide, and aims to illustrate the gap in chronic disease risk factor research in developing countries. The thesis describes and analyses the distribution of chronic disease risk factors in a rural setting in Indonesia. It also describes how smoking, one of the most common risk factors, is viewed by rural Javanese boys. Ultimately, therefore, this thesis aims to contribute to policy and programme recommendations for community interventions in a rural setting in Indonesia
Methods: The studies were conducted in Purworejo District, where a Demographic Surveillance System (DSS) has been running since 1994. The Purworejo DSS is part of the INDEPTH network (International Network of field sites for continuous Demographic Evaluation of Populations and Their Health in developing countries). Two representative cross-sectional studies (in 2001 and 2005) were conducted to assess the chronic disease risk factors (including smoking, elevated blood pressure, and overweight and obesity). The first cross-sectional study was followed up in 2002 and 2004. In each study, a total of 3 250 participants (approximately 250 individuals in each sex and age group among 15–74 year olds stratified into 10-year intervals) were randomly selected from the surveillance database from each enumeration area in the surveillance area. Instruments were adopted from the WHO STEPS survey and adapted to local setting. Since many Indonesians start to smoke at an earlier age, a qualitative study using a focus group discussion approach was conducted among school boys aged 13-17 years old to describe and explore beliefs, norms, and values about smoking in a rural setting in Java.
Result: Both the rural and urban populations in Purworejo face an unequal distribution of risk factors for chronic diseases. The burden among the most well-off group in the rural area has already reached a level similar to that found in the urban area. Most of the risk factors increased in all age, sex and socioeconomic groups during the period of 2001 to 2005. However, women and the poorest group experienced the greatest increase in risk factor prevalence. The qualitative study showed that cultural resistance against women smoking in Indonesia remains strong. Smoking is being viewed as a culturally internalised habit that signifies transition into maturity and adulthood for boys. Smoking is utilised as a means for socialisation and signifies better socioeconomic status. The use of tobacco in the construction of masculinity underlines the importance of gender specific interventions. National tobacco control policy should emphasise a smoking free society as the norm, especially among boys and men, and regulations regarding the banning of smoking should be enforced at all levels and areas of the community.
Within the demographic surveillance setting, it is possible to assess the population and health dynamics. Utilisation of a standardised methodology across sites in INDEPTH will produce comparable population-based data in developing countries. Such comparisons are important in global health. A comparison of smoking transition patterns between a Vietnamese DSS and an Indonesian DSS shows that Indonesian men started smoking regularly earlier and ceased less than Vietnamese men. Compared with Vietnam, which has already signed and ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, tobacco control activities in Indonesia are still deficient.
Conclusion: The thesis concludes that the rural population is not spared from the emerging burden of chronic disease risk factors. The patterning of risks across different socioeconomic groups provides a macro picture of the vicious cycle between poverty and chronic diseases. Understanding of risk factors in a local context through a qualitative study provides insight into cultural aspects relating to risk factor adoption, and will allow the fostering and tailoring of culturally appropriate interventions. Combining data from demographic surveillance sites with the WHO STEP approach to chronic disease risk factor Surveillance addresses basic epidemiological questions on chronic diseases. The use of such data is a powerful advocacy tool in public health decision-making for chronic disease prevention in developing countries. With substantial existing evidence on the effectiveness of chronic disease prevention and intervention programmes, it is vital that Indonesia to starts planning intervention programmes to control the impending chronic disease epidemic, and most importantly, to translate all this evidence into public health action.
Keywords: chronic disease, risk factor, demographic surveillance system, smoking, elevated blood pressure, overweight and obesity, population-based intervention