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Rising prosperity adding to India’s chronic disease woes: James Curran

Jun 24, 2015

Prof James Curran, Dean, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, United States, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, tells how chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes are going to be the major cause of death in India. Excerpts from the interview:

James Curran

OneWorld South Asia: Professor Curran, how do you look at the threat of chronic diseases in India?

Prof James Curran: The rapid growth of India in the last few decades accompanied by the economic development has led to a population which is aging and is now susceptible to various chronic diseases.

Therefore, chronic diseases which include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, injuries and mental health issues are going to be the major cause of illness and death in the Indian population over the next few decades.

OWSA: What are the factors, triggering chronic heart diseases in India?

Curran: We have seen throughout the world the rapid increase in obesity and diabetes. It has been increasing both in the developing and developed countries.

As India moves from a developing to developed country, it becomes also a country of increasing prosperity and increasing incidence of chronic disease. It's also no longer easy to say that these diseases are of the western part or the eastern part. We now have diseases of the globe.

OWSA: What kind of precautions can people take to stall the dangers of such diseases?

Curran: People need to be aware of the importance of chronic diseases as they get older. Cigarette smoking and smoking of tobacco are major causes of chronic disease disability. It's very important to be diagnosed for future diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension.

We know that diet can be important in physical activities, but it is also important to understand the need for integrating health care resources and prevention strategies.

The newly established Centre for Control of Chronic Conditions (CCCC) in India will bring together experts from around the world to understand better that how these diseases occur and how they can best be dealt with.

To provide a better understanding of how these conditions can be prevented throughout the world, the centre brings the best together from two premier health institutions (All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Public Health Foundation of India) in India as well as Emory University, Atlanta and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The centre will aid in providing good surveillance of the occurrence of the problems and would be able to design health systems which can help the policy makers to prevent and deal effectively. Looking at the antecedents of chronic disease and their incidence in the country, the centre will look into ways of detecting and preventing such diseases in India.

OWSA: What is the role of physicians in dealing with the challenge of chronic diseases?

Curran: I think physicians remain a key profession in the health system to both diagnose and treat chronic conditions as well as acute conditions. Health professionals should lead the campaign for preventing chronic diseases and educate people about the same.

There is a need for more research and more professionals for dealing with prevention strategies that includes health communication. There is a need for legislation to regulate certain types of risks like tobacco and other things including understanding dietary patterns and how they may be altered and fixed.

OWSA: Out of the various chronic diseases which one is the biggest threat for India?

Curran: Well, in general, the largest cause of death has probably turned out to be cardio vascular disease in India. But diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardio vascular disease and stroke fit together in one kind of combination of vascular disorders.

OWSA: What is the most debilitating effect of chronic disease on people?

Curran: Chronic disease themselves occur in groups, not just one but many like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardio vascular diseases come in groups.

In addition to causing people to miss work and not being able to care for their families, these diseases can be very expensive for the affected families.

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