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Strategies to prevent the rising tide of the epidemic of chronic diseases

The Lancet Early Online Publication, released on the 5th of October, which comprises of a Series of four papers about chronic diseases, has a comprehensive report on the threat of chronic diseases in India. In an article, co-authored // by Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, the need to provide an effective public-health response to the growing challenge of chronic diseases in India was highlighted, stating that it can no longer be ignored without imperilling India's development.

The article talks at length about the interventions to combat the rising tide of the burden of chronic diseases, suggesting comprehensive strategy to integrate actions, minimizing exposure to risk factors at the population level, and reduce risk in individuals at high risk, and also complains that “the health systems are presently geared to provide prioritized care for communicable diseases and services related to maternal and child health. The agenda of health promotion and chronic disease prevention has not yet been adequately incorporated. Clinical services, too, are not currently designed to provide the required level of care for these diseases in primary and secondary health-care settings”.

On the positive side, the article lists the country’s efforts in areas like setting up of the national programme for prevention and control of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and efforts to identify action pathways and partnerships for implementing the Global strategy on diet, physical activity and health.

The article concludes on the note that as chronic disease epidemics gather pace in India and threaten harm to individuals, families, and the society at large, a comprehensive strategy for their prevention and control is needed. Some of the efforts, such as control programmes for tobacco use and cancer need to be upscaled. In other areas, such as diet and physical activity, the process must move from contemplation to action. Health systems need to be reoriented to accommodate the needs of chronic disease prevention and control, by enhancing the skills of health-care providers and equipping health-care facilities to provide services related to health promotion, risk detection, and risk reductin.

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