Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) pose a significant threat to mankind, accounting for 70% of worldwide deaths every year but they are largely preventable and often linked to changeable lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity and the use of various substances. Thus, prioritising prevention should be a primary goal of public health policies, as it is more cost-effective than treating NCDs.
Key problems associated with NCDs:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), NCDs are responsible for 61% of all deaths in India. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ashok Rattan, Chairman Medical Committee and Quality at Redcliffe Labs, revealed that some of the key problems associated with NCDs in India include –
- High prevalence: NCDs are highly prevalent in India, with risk factors such as tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption contributing to the problem.
- Low awareness: Many people in India are not aware of the risks associated with NCDs or how to prevent and manage these diseases. This can lead to delays in seeking treatment and poor management of chronic conditions.
- Poor access to healthcare: Many people in India do not have access to quality healthcare, which can make it difficult to manage and treat NCDs effectively. This is particularly true for people living in rural areas or from low-income backgrounds.
- High healthcare costs: Treating NCDs can be expensive, and many people in India cannot afford the cost of healthcare. This can create financial burdens for patients and their families, as well as for healthcare providers and the government.
- Lack of prevention policies: Although Government runs a number of prevention programs and but there is lack of policies in India to address NCDs. This includes a lack of public health campaigns promoting healthy lifestyles, limited access to affordable healthy food options, and inadequate regulations around tobacco and alcohol use.
Prevention tips and management strategies:
According to Dr Shivali Ahlawat, Lab Director at Oncquest Laboratories Ltd, effective prevention strategies include raising awareness of healthy behaviours, enacting policies to promote nutritious eating and physical activity, limiting tobacco and alcohol consumption and improving access to healthcare. She shared, “Effective NCD management involves early detection and diagnosis, affordable treatment options, and patient support to adopt healthy lifestyle changes. Addressing NCDs requires a collaborative and integrated approach across multiple sectors.”
She suggested, “Governments can create regulations and policies that promote healthy behaviours and improve healthcare access. Civil society can help increase awareness and educate the public on healthy lifestyles. Parallel to government initiatives, the private sector can also play a remarkable role in promoting healthy products and services. Individually, making informed decisions and adopting healthy habits can contribute a lot to disease prevention. Reducing the burden of NCDs demands concerted efforts from all parties involved and implementing prevention and management strategies to improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities.”
Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Ashok Rattan highlighted that preventing and managing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of these diseases, including unhealthy lifestyles and environmental factors. As per him, some key strategies that can be used to prevent and manage NCDs in India include:
1. Promoting healthy lifestyles: Public health campaigns that promote healthy lifestyles, including regular physical activity, healthy diets, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, can be effective in preventing NCDs.
2. Improving access to healthcare: Improving access to quality healthcare, including affordable medications and essential medical services, can help manage and treat NCDs effectively. This is particularly important in rural areas and for low-income populations.
3. Strengthening healthcare systems: Strengthening healthcare systems to manage better and treat NCDs, including through better training of healthcare workers and improved access to diagnostic tools and treatment options, can help improve outcomes for patients with NCDs.
4. Implementing policies and regulations: Policies and regulations that limit exposure to risk factors for NCDs, including tobacco and alcohol use, can be effective in preventing these diseases. This can include increasing taxes on tobacco and alcohol products, as well as regulating advertising and marketing of these products.
5. Engaging communities: Engaging communities in the prevention and management of NCDs can be effective in raising awareness and promoting healthy behaviors. This can include working with local community leaders and organizations to promote healthy lifestyles and improve access to healthcare.