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India’s NCD programme draws attention in South Asia

India’s population screening programme for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) has been drawing attention from other nations in the South Asia region, with even the World Health Organization (WHO) praising the programme.


NCDs top cause of death concept. chronic disease. Copyright: jes2ufoto / 123RF Stock Photo
NCDs are now some of the top causes of death across the globe

The programme has been in place since 2017 and is the culmination of work from a large collaboration of organizations and companies. In addition to the WHO, the NHSRC (National Health Systems Resource Centre), AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences), ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research), NICPR (National Institute of Cancer Prevention Research), NIC (National Informatics Centre) and the IndiaStack team at iSPIRT (India Software Product Industry Round Table) have joined in efforts to develop the programme. The programme has been facilitated by Tata Trusts and Dell.

Thus far Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar have expressed interest in developing replicas of India’s NCD programme. The WHO has also presented it to the eleven member-countries of its South-East Asian region, expressing interest in the use of the programme by field-level health workers.

The NCD screening programme has so far enrolled around seven crore people (seventy million) across 29 states and Union Territories and has screened around three crore (thirty million) for diseases like diabetes, hypertension and certain types of cancers.

The NCD programme is one of the modules in Ayushman Bharat’s Comprehensive Primary Healthcare (CPHC) initiative. It is currently deployed in 503 districts across the country. Due to its digital background, it is able to track health trends across the country. 

NCDs are an ever more prominent concern in India. A transition into an industrialised economy has presented numerous challenges. Foremost among these are lifestyle change and pollution. While just a few decades ago the majority of the Indian workforce played a role in manual labour — and therefore, physically active — a large section of the population now work in sedentary desk jobs. 

Such lack of physical activity, coupled with alterations in diet to consume far more empty calories from sugary, high-fat fast foods combine to considerably elevate the risk of many NCDs. In addition, with many individuals seeking work in densely populated cities in which pollution is rife, lung conditions are also on the rise.

As previously noted by Health Issues India “India is a prominent example of this epidemiological transition, as it has now grappled for a considerable amount of time with a so-called dual burden of disease. Whilst still battling a considerable burden of infectious, maternal and perinatal disease, India has witnessed NCDs emerge as its leading killer; the main driver of disability-adjusted life years; and a key driver of out-of-pocket expenditure on health, which can leave Indian families facing economic ruin.”


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