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India does yoga at Colombo WHO meet, needs to strengthen primary health care

NEW DELHI(PTI): To save 8.5 million lives annually from death by diseases of the heart, of the lungs, from cancer, from diabetes, India and other countries from the south east Asian region recognised the importance of strengthening delivery services and care facilities. At a declaration in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where health ministers from across the region have gathered for the 69th WHO Regional Committee Meeting.

The ‘Colombo declaration’ as it is called, signed September 5, if implemented well could be a big step in the fight to curb the impact of the group of diseases called non-communicable diseases (NCDs), or lifestyle diseases, and an opportunity for India to improve its notoriously poor primary health care infrastructure, meant to be the first point of contact between the patients and public health facilities. Access to primary health care, said WHO officials meant populations at risk got early diagnostics and screening at the correct time.

India, with 5.8 million annual deaths to NCDs, shoulders one of the biggest burdens, and two thirds of southeast Asia’s NCD death. Its numbers according to WHO, are alarming; cardiovascular diseases (coronary heart disease, stroke, and hypertension) contribute to 45 percent of all NCD deaths followed by chronic respiratory disease (22 percent), cancers (12 percent) and diabetes (3 percent).

The probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 years from four major NCDs is 26 percent, which means that a 30-year old individual has a one-fourth chance of dying from these diseases before the age of 70 years, says the WHO data.

At the meeting, India’s health minister JP Nadda, showed the country’s commitment to fighting NCDs by leading all other nations in a session of yoga, calling it the “ancient Vedic gift to the world”. India has long been stressing on yoga as a cure for most lifestyle disease, and in the run up to 2016’s International Yoga Day, the health minister had put a strong emphasis on personal responsibility of people, to practice yoga and stay fit.

However, India’s NCD trouble goes deeper than just individual reluctance to exercise, as data from the centre and from WHO has shown the country has troubling malnutrition, which has a long lasting impact on issues such as diabetes, obesity, stunting, etc. India’s infrastructure is also understaffed, which Nadda acknowledged at Colombo.

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