There is a common perception that non-communicable diseases are more prevalent within higher socio-economic strata of the society. However, a national survey done in India shows that diseases related to misuse of alcohol and tobacco are higher in the poorest 20 percent quintile of our society.
Current healthcare system in India:
Currently with appropriate disease treatment measures, alleviation of acute symptoms of the disease that a particular patient is suffering from, is the key concern of all concerned starting from the doctors to the patients and their family. The process of the medical intervention revolves round treatment protocols and procedures based on the diagnosis of the current ailments and not so much on preventive measures for other underlying diseases, except with the use of vaccines for some specific diseases.
Developing a protocol for ‘Preventive Healthcare’ for non-communicable diseases is very important:
In the above process, while addressing the acute problems of the patients’ current ailments is very important, proper risk assessment of other underlying diseases, if any, which the patient could suffer from in future, for various reasons, do not attract any organized attention. As a result the important advice on preventive healthcare from the doctors, properly highlighting its importance, is not available to most of the patients to enable them to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, their future burden of disease.
Keeping such common practices in view and noting that ‘Preventive Healthcare’ is significantly different from ‘Curative Healthcare’, developing an appropriate protocol for ‘Preventive Healthcare’ has become a crying need of the hour.
‘Preventive Healthcare’ in India should attract high priority of the healthcare policy makers with a care vigil on its effective implementation at the ground level:
All said and done, the ‘Preventive Healthcare’ system in India is in its very nascent stage. If appropriate measures are taken in this area, like learning to reduce the impact of mental and physical stress, avoiding sedentary life style, taking healthy diet, avoidance of tobacco and alcohol consumption, leading healthy sex life etc., it can in turn immensely help the population to remain disease free and healthy, thereby contributing to improvement of their respective work productivity in a very substantial way.
The Medical Council of India should also step in:
Thus the role of medical professionals in the disease prevention process is also very important. The interaction of the patients with the doctors when they meet to address any ailment provides huge opportunity to the doctors to advise those patients about various measures of underlying disease prevention, for which different patients have different types of exposures.
Keeping all these points in view, through regulatory initiatives, the Medical Council of India (MCI) should consider making ‘Preventive Healthcare’ an integral part of each interaction of a patient with a doctor.
Include the civil society in the healthcare improvement process of the nation:
The risk factors of many of the diseases like, cancer, chronic respiratory disorders, cardiovascular, diabetes, and hypertension can be identified well in advance and appropriately assessed. Therefore, such diseases can be prevented effectively, to a great extent, provided the healthcare policy of the country supports the ‘Disease Prevention’ process, program and initiatives through adequate resource allocation, improving awareness of the civil society and above all including them in this healthcare improvement process of the nation.
Need to raise general awareness towards ‘Preventive Healthcare’:
Raising the level of awareness of ‘Preventive Healthcare’ is indeed very important. It requires a change in the mindset of the community in general, together with the healthcare policy makers, medical profession, employers, patients and their families.
National Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) prevention program of the government:
As per the planning commission, the government of India has initiated the following structured measures for the prevention of NCD:
• “Health education for primary and secondary prevention of NCDs through mobilizing community action;
• Development of treatment protocols for education and training of physicians in the prevention and management of NCDs:
• Strengthening/creation of facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of CVD and stroke, and the establishment of referral linkages;
• Promotion of the production of affordable drugs to combat diabetes, hypertension, and myocardial infarction;
• Development and support of institutions for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities;
• Research support for: Multispectral population-based interventions to reduce risk factors;
• The role of nutrition and lifestyle-related factors;
• The development of cost effective interventions at each level of care”.
Many diseases in India, with proper ‘Disease Prevention’ measures can be effectively averted. It is worth repeating that some common measures which can be easily practiced through community initiatives are maintenance of proper hygiene, sanitation, adequate physical activities, moderation in alcohol and tobacco consumption, healthy sexual activities, avoidance of unhealthy food etc.
Besides, the government should spearhead the paradigm change towards ‘Preventive healthcare’ by including the civil society as a part of this process along with appropriate regulations wherever necessary, generating increased awareness within all concerned and through mobilization of adequate resources. All these will ultimately help all of us to translate the well-known dictum into reality, ‘Prevention is better than cure’.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.