Cardiovascular disease is biggest killer in India

Non-communicable diseases have emerged as the leading causes of death in India. More than 6 million Indians died of non-communicable diseases in 2015 according to research on the Global Burden of Disease published by The Lancet last week. The number of men who died of non-communicable diseases was 3.6 million, that is more than double the deaths by communicable diseases at 1.5 million. Among women, 2.7 million died due to non-communicable diseases as opposed to 1.4 million deaths due to communicable diseases.

Cardiovascular diseases were the leading cause of death, killing 1.6 million men and 1.1 million women. The second leading cause of death was chronic respiratory disease, which killed more than a million people.

Injuries and suicides also took high tolls. Injuries killed 0.6 million men and 0.3 million women. India had the highest number of suicide deaths, with nearly 132,000 deaths in men and over 76,000 deaths in women. Ischemic stroke, haemorrhagic stroke, tuberculosis, lower respiratory infections and diarrhea were other major causes of death.

The biggest risk factors for ill health and death in India are high systolic blood pressure, high blood sugar, ambient and household air pollution, and unsafe water. Smoking has overtaken cholesterol and iron deficiency as the bigger risk factor.

Growing childhood obesity problem

New research shows that childhood obesity has grown to alarming levels with an estimated 268 million children between the ages of five and 17 years possibly overweight by 2025. In 2010, about 219 million children in this age group were overweight.

Obesity alone rises from 76 million children in 2010 to 91 million by 2025, according to the study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity. The researchers also anticipate a rise in obesity-related diseases. Like impaired glucose tolerance, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and hepatic steatosis, which is buildup of fat in the liver.

The new research shows that by member states of the World Health Organisation to achieve the target of “no increase on obesity levels” from 2010 levels are bearing few results. National health service providers will instead need to plan for treatment of a large number of cases of obesity linked diseases.

Bringing quacks into formal healthcare

West Bengal will now provide basic formal medical training for six months to more than 3,000 informal healthcare providers, or quack doctors, after a pilot programme in the state conducted in 2013 in 203 villages in Birbhum district showed promising results in decreasing the gap in healthcare service provision.

The aim is to turn self-proclaimed healthcare providers into human resources with a minimum scientific understanding of human health to plug gaps in the state’s health delivery systems.

The nine-month pilot programme for 152 randomly recruited informal providers showed a 14% improvement in their ability to correctly handle cases and compile basic checklists. The trained providers were able to correctly manage 52% of their cases while a control group that did not undergo any training could offer only over 11% “average quality or higher” treatment. The trained informal healthcare providers were also found to prescribe about 28% fewer unnecessary antibiotics than qualified doctors.