Rajesh Kesari | Non-communicable diseases driving rising disease burden in India

For India, its vast population combined with a rapidly changing lifestyle makes the problem acute

Human beings are in constant battle with other organisms that have been refined by evolution. Historically, the health of human beings has been largely affected by deadly epidemic diseases, famines, injuries and other complications. As communities evolved, new age health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, respiratory, and kidney disease, as well as mental health issues, became more prominent. The increase in life expectancy, population growth, urbanization, climate change and changing lifestyles have been the main drivers of these chronic diseases grouped under the generic term of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). .

The burden of NCDs is increasing globally and is expected to reach alarming proportions. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that the total annual number of deaths from NCDs will increase to 55 million by 2030, if timely interventions are not made for its prevention and control. For India, its vast population combined with a rapidly changing lifestyle makes the problem acute. Additionally, the recent onslaught of the Covid-19 virus, which has caused extreme health problems and distress, has placed more emphasis on preventive health care. Over the past two years, Covid management across the country has indicated that people with non-communicable disease co-morbidities have a higher mortality rate than those without and so, if India wants to successfully navigate other such pandemics in the future, it must address NCDs in an inclusive manner.

Despite difficult circumstances, several commendable steps have been taken by the Indian government not only to address this growing concern but also to promote a healthy lifestyle. A population-based initiative for the prevention, control and screening of common non-communicable diseases, namely diabetes, hypertension and common cancers, has been rolled out in the country under the National Health and also within the framework of comprehensive primary health care.

The preventive aspect of NCDs is also reinforced within the framework of comprehensive primary health care through the Ayushman Bharat Health Wellness Center programme, through the promotion of wellness activities and targeted communication at the community level. Other initiatives to increase public awareness of NCDs and promote healthy lifestyles include observing National and International Health Days and using print, electronic and social media for ongoing awareness of the disease. community. The Fit India movement implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports and various yoga-related activities carried out by the Ministry of AYUSH with Swachh Bharat Abhiyan are examples of unique initiatives that aim not only to improve overall health citizens, but also their quality of life. life.

Given that India is a vast country with varied socio-economic challenges, continuous and sustained interventions to strengthen our health systems will remain essential. A 2021 report by ASSOCHAM on the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in India suggested that the prevalence of any non-communicable disease among the population is 116 per 1000 people. It identified hypertension, digestive diseases and diabetes as the top three non-communicable diseases, followed by respiratory diseases, brain/neurological disorders, heart disease/CVD, kidney disorders and cancer in order of prevalence. .

He makes an alarming observation that non-communicable diseases increase after the age of 18 and show a leap forward when an individual crosses the age of 35. It was found that more than two thirds of people suffering from non-communicable diseases belong to the most productive age group – between 26 and 50 years old. Since we are one of the youngest nations in the world, unwavering and concerted efforts for a ‘Swasth Bharat’ are imperative.

The age group (26-50) is particularly important as people make multiple lifestyle choices that they continue into their 40s and 50s. Therefore, maintaining a healthy lifestyle from early adulthood is essential for overall health and well-being. A more holistic awareness campaign on healthy lifestyle needs to be put in place in order to create healthy youth for the nation. Here it is important to state that instead of deviating from the real problem by focusing on some of the small components which may have unhealthy characteristics, it will not yield the desired results. Such a short-sighted view would indeed be counter-productive and would benefit neither current nor future generations.

Our lifestyle choices play a large role in contributing to health problems and therefore awareness of this issue is important.

However, equal attention should also be given to better managing issues such as air pollution, low physical activity, low pulse diet, high stress levels, etc., which have been shown to have a much greater role and greater risk in contributing to MNT. In our efforts for public health initiatives, raising levels of awareness, not moral policing, will prove more effective for holistic and preventative health care.

Due to the progress made in all spheres of health and development, India has entered a new era of public health in the past ten years; That said, we must continue to build on this progress. In addition to non-communicable diseases, India is making progress in addressing broader issues such as provision of nutritious food, clean water, hygiene and sanitation, which play a pivotal role in mitigating our health risks and contribute positively to India’s challenge to prevent disease and achieve better health outcomes.

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