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India Faces Diabetes Crisis

Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2006

A surge in diabetes cases in India threatens the whole health care system. The cost for the increase in diabetes is estimated to be over 250 billion dollars.

 
Rising incomes and huge servings of bad food -- from deep-fried samosas to pizza and burgers -- have sparked a surge in diabetes cases in India that threatens the health care system, experts say.
The creaky medical system in this country of 1.1 billion people has traditionally focused on contagious diseases like malaria, polio and measles --made chronic by a lack of food and proper sanitation for millions.

But as India's economy grows, more and more people -- half the population is under 25 -- are swapping lives of physical labor and homemade meals of rice and lentils for sedentary office jobs and big helpings of greasy take-away.

As a result, the number of diabetes cases, now at some 35 million, is expected to more than double in the next 25 years, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In a report released last year, the Geneva-based UN body estimated that the cost to India from premature deaths caused by diabetes and related heart diseases would be almost 250 billion dollars in the next decade.

That figure has raised alarm bells among public health officials here, where total government health spending amounts to just 20 dollars a person each year.

India's National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health estimated last year that the government spends 150 rupees (3.30 dollars) to treat a person with malaria, and half that to treat someone with dysentery.

But it costs a budget-busting 1,139 rupees a person for diabetes treatment, a total that can rise above 5,000 rupees if insulin is needed.

"In the last two decades, the main emphasis of health teaching has been on communicable diseases -- typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, even HIV is very well known," said Anoop Misra, one of the country's foremost experts on diabetes.

"Now we are facing the double jeopardy of diabetes and malnutrition, obesity and malnutrition," said Misra, who runs the diabetes department at the private Fortis Hospital in New Delhi. Misra said that Indians are prone to diabetes because centuries of food shortages have led to genetic changes that encourage the storage of food as fat. Excess fat is a major risk factor for the disease, which causes the body to be unable to control its blood sugar levels, leading to serious damage of organs like the kidneys and eyes.

"Previously it was sort of suppressed -- if you are not eating food, you can't develop diabetes. Now we're eating more," said Misra, adding that one in 10 residents of the relatively well-fed Indian capital has the disease.

India has one doctor for every 1,600 people, as compared to South Korea which has one for every 300 people.

"The average Indian person thinks to go to doctor when he has a disease," Varghese said.

"In the case of non-communicable diseases, you have to go to the doctor when you don't have a disease. That type of health-seeking behavior is not widely prevalent in India."

"The burden on the health system will be too much. The behaviour patterns have to change."

 

Source: Diabetes In Control

 
 
 
 
 
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