Working to prevent non-communicable diseases: Health ministry

New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) India’s health ministry Thursday said it would scale up the response to non-communicable diseases and work towards prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes.

A national programme for the control of such diseases already exists in 100 districts and will soon cover all districts, said Health and Family Welfare Secretary Keshav Desiraju at a conference here Thursday, ahead of the WHO’s World Health Day April 7.

“The prevalence of NCDs (non-communicable diseases) such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancers is increasing. High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease; in 2008, 24 percent of all deaths in India were from cardiovascular diseases,” he said.

Major risk factors include unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco intake, and harmful use of alcohol, he said, adding awareness would be created about the need for a healthy lifestyle.

The theme of World Health Day 2013 is hypertension or high blood pressure, and Desiraju said this would be a focus area in the national programme.

Listing the steps taken by the government for early detection of diabetes and blood pressure, he said: “Under the NPCDCS (National Programme for the Prevention and Control of Cancer), about 1.76 crore people aged 30 years and above have been screened for diabetes and hypertension, out of which 7.22 percent were suspected of having diabetes and 6.59 percent hypertension.”

Nata Menabde, WHO representative to India, said: “High blood pressure affects one in three adults worldwide and leads to more than nine million deaths globally every year. Many people do not even know they suffer from high blood pressure.”

She stressed the need for action at the community level for prevention and control of this silent killer.

Menabde said that in many countries, including India, the out-of-pocket expenditure incurred on NCDs is high, contributing to the impoverishment of households and hitting the poor the worst, as these are chronic conditions requiring long-term and often expensive treatment.

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