Developing countries account for a high burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and are home to a higher number of premature deaths from NCDs. Therefore, NCDs have become an integral part of the global developmental agenda. As active cases of COVID-19 in India have dropped by a significant amount, the country needs to bring its focus back to NCD care.
Over the past few decades, India has seen a rise in the number of NCD cases. A survey report that covered 2,33,672 people and 673 public health offices in 21 states in the country stated that the burden of NCDs in India is long-lasting as 65 percent of the country’s population is below 35 years of age.
Changing lifestyles, urbanization, pollution and aging populations are all significantly linked to increases in the number of non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, cancers among others. These are the diseases that account for 71 percent of the deaths globally.
While in the last decade India has introduced a few measures to address the issue of NCD burden, like the National Programme on Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, CVD and Stroke (NPCDCS) and the Ayushman Bharat Programme on improving the delivery of primary healthcare, a lot more focus needs to be brought back for NCD care and management among the population of the country.
The non-communicable diseases can be of long duration, and they may be a result of a combination of different factors including genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioral. The three main types of NCDs are cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and diabetes. People belonging to all age groups might suffer from NCDs, however, the conditions are most often associated with older age groups.
The risk factors that contribute to NCDs may include:
- Unhealthy diets
- Lack of physical activity
- Exposure to tobacco
- Harmful use of alcohol
Unhealthy diets and lack of physical activity have the potential to show up in people as increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity. These are known as metabolic risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular diseases that is known as the leading NCD in terms of premature deaths.
Therefore, an important way to control NCDs is to focus on reducing the risk factors that are associated with the diseases. The government has provided low-cost solutions to prevent and control NCDs in India through the Non-communicable Disease Control Programmes to address the rising burden of NCDs. However, there is a need to monitor progress and the trends of NCDs along with their risks. This is an important step for guiding policy and priorities.
To reduce the impact of NCDs on individuals and society, a comprehensive approach is needed requiring all sectors like finance, transport, education, and planning, in addition to health to collaborate in order to reduce risks that are associated with NCDs and promote interventions to prevent and control them.
It is pivotal to invest in better management of NCDs. Appropriate management of NCDs will include detection, screening and treating these diseases. It is vital to provide access to palliative care for people in need. Interventions that have a high impact can be delivered through a primary healthcare approach. This will strengthen the process of early detection and treatment.
These interventions can result in excellent economic investments because if patients are provided with the information early, they can reduce the need for more expensive treatment.
Studies have drawn attention to the need for better infrastructure to manage non-communicable diseases in India. They have drawn attention to the need for capacity building, building leadership to enable better implementation of the public healthcare programs that have been provided by the government.
Furthermore, it is essential to increase public expenditure on overall healthcare. This is important to prevent and control risk factors in a systematic manner by developing strategies and policies to inhibit the NCD burden that is present in India.
The author is Director, Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital Noida