Chronically Ailing: Non-infectious diseases biggest contributor to country’s disease burden

By: | Published: September 17, 2018 4:53 AM

High cancer burden in the country, as per the authors of the study, is tied to increased urbanisation, incidence of obesity in the population, falling physical activity and tobacco consumption, among other factors.

Non-infectious diseases, including lifestyle diseases, are a growing concern even as the country continues to battle infectious diseases. (Representational photo)

The disease burden in India is seeing fundamental shift. Non-infectious diseases, including lifestyle diseases, are a growing concern even as the country continues to battle infectious diseases. A new Lancet study, released last week, points at several such diseases whose bearing on the economy is expected to get quite serious in the coming years. While India has managed to push down certain forms of cancer—cervical and oesophageal—cancers of the breast, liver and lungs have been growing, contributing to the rising incidence of cancer in the country. Apart from cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and cardio vascular diseases (CVD) contribute to overall morbidity and mortality burden.

Many of these diseases are rooted in lifestyle—diabetes, CVD, etc—while some are linked to environmental degradation. For instance, as per Lancet, 43% of all lung cancer cases in India are caused by air pollution. High cancer burden in the country, as per the authors of the study, is tied to increased urbanisation, incidence of obesity in the population, falling physical activity and tobacco consumption, among other factors. In fact, the distribution of certain forms of cancer across the country is quite strongly linked with lifestyle. The study speaks about how the northeastern states have a high incidence of lung, oesophageal, nasopharynx and other cancers of the pharynx that is linked to higher tobacco use. “There are also unique tobacco consumption patterns in these states, such as the use of tobacco-infused water in Mizoram… and delayed childbearing and lower parity are high in Kerala as is breast cancer,” the study stated. The Lancet study, with its state-wise mapping of some non-infectious diseases, should help public health interventions target factors at the root, such as pollution in Delhi, the North East’s higher tobacco use, etc.

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