Non-communicable Diseases and its impact on individual and population health

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Non-communicable Diseases and its impact on individual and population health

  • Population health is more than just the health of all individuals.
  • Suicide rates are an example of the distinction between population and individual health.
  • While individual and population health are inexorably linked, the causes, and thus the interventions required to address them, tend to be different.

Non-communicable Diseases

  • Chronic diseases, also known as noncommunicable diseases, are long-term illnesses caused by a mix of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors.
  • Cardiovascular illnesses (such as heart attacks and strokes), malignancies, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes are the most common NCDs.

Key Observations

  • Noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, account for more than 70% of all deaths globally, or 41 million people. There are 15 million persons between the ages of 30 and 69 who die prematurely.
  • One-third of these fatalities occur before the age of 70, harming people who are economically productive.
  • Tobacco use, unhealthy diet, inadequate physical activity, and harmful alcohol use are the four ""main"" NCDs.
  • The poor are disproportionately affected by NCDs, which impoverish families and impose a rising load on health-care systems.

Socio-economic impact of NCDs

  • NCDs are jeopardising progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which calls for a one-third reduction in premature deaths from NCDs by 2030.
  • NCDs and poverty are inextricably related. The fast growth in NCDs is expected to stymie poverty reduction efforts in low-income nations, notably by raising family health-care expenses.
  • Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged individuals are sicker and die sooner than persons in better social positions, owing to their increased risk of exposure to dangerous items like nicotine and bad eating patterns, as well as their limited access to health services.
  • NCD-related health-care expenses swiftly deplete household resources in low-resource settings. The exorbitant costs of NCDs, including often lengthy and expensive treatment and loss of breadwinners, force millions of people into poverty annually and stifle development.

Individualistic policy measures

  • In the previous decade, the government acknowledged that the focus of Indian public health remained near-exclusively on maternal and child health and infectious diseases for too long.
  • The peg was proposed to be moved over to non-communicable diseases (NCD) and chronic illnesses, whose rising prevalence portends huge economic and productivity losses.
  • What followed were a set of essentially individualistic policy measures in the form of enhanced NCD screening and management infrastructure, wellness and lifestyle interventions, patient referral mechanisms, and so on.
  • With Health and Wellness centres, publicly financed health insurance schemes, and vertical NCD control programmes, the entire initiative to address NCDs has been subsumed into a largely biomedical paradigm with scarce vestiges of the social sciences.
  • The private sector has come to complement this with a large array of self-tests, over-the-counter products, and lifestyle-change gimmicks.

What needs to be done?

  • Fibre and whole grains can help to minimise the risk of noncommunicable diseases including heart disease. Consuming high-fiber meals lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer by 16 to 24%.
  • When compared to lesser consumption, higher fibre intake is linked to lower bodyweight, systolic blood pressure, and total cholesterol.
  • Doctors also advise that you eat less and savour your meal by chewing slowly, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, avoid excessive quantities that lead to weight gain, consume at least half of your grains as whole grains, and minimise trans fat consumption.

Way forward

  • With projected losses due to NCDs in the order of multiple trillions by 2030, the case for investing in inter-sectoral, population-based, socially embedded approaches is ripe.
  • This requires a total galvanisation of different departments and sectors to the importance of population health.
  • The push for digitisation must be mobilised to generate enough evidence for resolute action on social health determinants.
  • Government policy pronouncements will need to enshrine actionable points and explicit mandates to address social health determinants.