14 October 2011
By , Hemant Thacker
Over the past decade, much has been spoken and written about bird flu , H1N1, malaria, chikungunya and its likes in parliament, municipalities and medical circles resulting in a clamour for treatment and vaccines. Amid all this we seem to have forgotten the curse of non–communicable diseases (NCDs) that has always existed and ignored its might which is altering demographics and stunting development and impacting economic growth everywhere.
By the end of this decade, every fifth Indian will be diabetic. Shockingly, the age at diagnosis is dropping to even the late twenties. While it may sound like a science fiction novel, NCDs in reality are devastating lives and crippling healthcare worldwide. Is this the price that we are willing to pay for being an emerging, tech–savvy, liberalized, open door economy? Or is this emanating from our “evolved” lazy lifestyles and “food faddism” that is riding piggyback on genetic propensities?
It is easy to enrol at a stylish gym and dip bread only in olive oil but the ad blitzkrieg of fried snacks, transfat foods and even subtle intoxicants opens up a deluge of fodder for the arteries of the community. Indian pharmaceutical firms are the most profitable because statins, blood thinners, anti–diabetic and ‘BP’ drugs are gobbled up by the vast multiple of patients, who are victims of lifestyle diseases.
The question raised by the UN resolution on NCDs is–—Can we go back one step and prevent the attack on our cells and organs, rather than flood the body with medication which comes at a price and its share of adverse effects. Sandwiched between World Heart Day (September) and the upcoming World Diabetes Day (November) and of course Diwali round the corner, health authorities should devise a strategy that aims at prevention. Since you cannot take your “genes” to the laundry you can at least feed them correctly and give them some mode of exercise—even simple walking.
Even doctors have started emphasizing “lifestyle alterations” before medication and this means the plate, the playground, the body and the spirit; for the mind rules them all. But we will need a socio–cultural revolution aided by media, pharmaceutical companies, medical and naturally governmental help if we are to make an impact.
This is my first “tiny step” in that direction that mankind must pursue. If we don’t put ‘Force’ after the ‘Rascal’ NCDs, tomorrow may usher in ‘Saheb, Bimari aur Doctor’.
(The writer is a consultant physician and cardio metabolic specialist with south Mumbai hospitals)