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Times Of India
29 Nov 2012
Pune, India.

Lifestyle diseases are no longer restricted to urban areas. The state health department recently screened people from six districts in Maharashtra as part of a Union government initiative and found thousands suffering from hypertension and diabetes. Though the number of people suffering from these conditions is not alarming, officials have nonetheless prescribed the all–familiar urban prescription of a healthy lifestyle that includes physical exercise and eating healthy food.

As part of the initiative, 11.62 lakh people were screened in six districts — Wardha, Washim, Amravati, Gadchiroli, Bhandara and Chandrapur — between August 2011 and November 2012. A total of 34,586 were detected with high blood sugar and 44,371 with high blood pressure. "By the end of the year, five more districts will come under the project. By 2017, we plan to screen population from remaining districts. The entire state will be covered in a phase–wise manner," said Satish Pawar, joint director (non–communicable diseases – NCD), state public health department. He said the project aimed at early detection of lifestyle diseases so that they can be treated early.

Major non–communicable diseases are linked by common risk factors, namely tobacco use in all forms, an unhealthy diet, particularly high consumption of fats, salt and sugar, physical inactivity, obesity, alcohol abuse and stress. Over the next five years, the Union government intends to screen the nation’s entire population for diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and strokes. As part of this, a pilot project has been launched in 100 districts of 21 states for prevention, early detection and treatment of these ailments under the national programme for control of non–communicable disease (NCDs).

Officials said the project also aims at creating awareness on adopting healthy lifestyles apart from providing both screening as well as targeted intervention to reduce mortality and morbidity due to diabetes and hypertension.

Pawar said, "People aged over 30 and pregnant women are screened for diabetes and hypertension. Primary health centres, rural hospitals and district hospitals have been strengthened to carry out the gigantic task. The government has given us equipment like glucometers and blood pressure apparatus to carry out the screening."

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Initially, the project was launched in Washim and Wardha but was later extended to four other districts — Amravati, Gadchiroli, Bhandara and Chandrapur – in August 2012.

"We have started treatment of people found suffering from diabetes and hypertension. They are being asked to make lifestyle changes, modify their diet and start physical exercise along with routine medicines. Since most whom are found with high blood sugar and high blood pressure are hooked to some or the other form of addiction like tobacco and alcohol, they are being counselled against it and being encouraged to follow healthy habits," said Satish More, state programme manager (noncommunicable diseases).

People have also been advised against intake of excessive salt and oily food and to include seasonal fruits and vegetables in their diets. Besides, they are advised to start physical exercises slowly and work up gradually like 30 minutes of exercises per day for protection of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

"They are asked to follow some easy and comfortable exercises like brisk walk, jogging, swimming, playing games and yoga. Besides, they are advised to adopt relaxation exercises, yoga and meditation, listening to music for coping with stress," More said.

Over the last one year, state health authorities have been holding health camps in the six districts apart from screening people who visit the state’s network of public hospitals — sub–centres, primary health centres, rural hospital and districts hospitals — for diabetes and hypertension. "We have non–communicable disease out–patient departments at some rural hospitals for this purpose. A record of all those screened with their findings is being maintained. Those detected with the conditions are being sent for confirmatory evaluation to rural hospitals or district hospitals," More said. A special staff comprising a doctor, nurse, counseller and a computer operator have been recruited at rural hospitals to evaluate the referred patients, he added.

Non–communicable diseases contributes half of the total mortality in the country.

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