High-Stress Levels Leading to High Prevalence of NCDs in West Bengal: ASSOCHAM Report

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    The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), the apex trade association of the country, as part of its ‘Illness to Wellness’ campaign, today unveiled West Bengal specific findings of India’s largest primary healthcare survey report on the rising burden of non-communicable diseases in the country.

    The report was conducted by ASSOCHAM jointly with Delhi-based think tank, Thought Arbitrage Research Institute. This was followed by a virtual panel discussion on “The New Health Challenges for West Bengal”. The survey report titled “Non-Communicable Diseases in India” covered 2,33,672 people and 673 public health offices in 21 states to analyse the rising cases of NCDs in the country and the social profile of suffering households.

     that prevalence of any NCD and key NCDs like hypertension, digestive diseases, neurological diseases, kidney disorders, respiratory disease, diabetes, cancer, and heart diseases in West Bengal is significantly higher than the national average. According to the survey, the prevalence of any NCD in the state is 17.83% as compared to the national average of 11.63%. 

    Delving on the risk factors associated with NCDs, the report underlined that the West Bengal population faces higher stress in comparison to the national average. It observed that people in the state get optimum sleep when compared to the national average. As per the report, 48% of respondents from West Bengal face high stress as compared to the national average of 41% while 88% get optimum sleep which is similar to the national average of 89%.

    The report highlighted that people in West Bengal are more physically active in comparison to people in other parts of the country. This finding is further substantiated by the lower BMI of respondents in comparison to the national average. The report also highlighted that air pollution, which is one of the important risk factors for NCDs, is 79% in the state and is comparable to the national average of 77%. 

    A significantly higher level of non-vegetarian food consumption at 93.5% as compared to the national average of 65.6% was identified as a key risk factor behind the high prevalence of NCDs in the state. This includes consumption of red meat, which is associated with a greater risk of NCDs, and aquatic food, which is considered a rich source of high-quality protein as well as micronutrients.

    The survey found that West Bengal has a higher level of vegetable consumption at 74.1% as compared to the national average of 62%. This is in sharp contrast to the trend observed with regards to fruit consumption which is lower in the state at 15.8% in comparison to 21% at the national level. The state is also found to be low in milk consumption with 39.9% population consuming milk against the national average of 57.8%. Legume consumption in the state is around 74% percent and it matches the national average. The report also noted a higher level of incidence of intoxication in the state compared to the national average.

    Junk food with high salt content and carbonated drinks consumption which can lead to a lot of health problems are at par with the national average. As per the report, 37.9% of respondents answered in affirmative when asked about the consumption of carbonated drinks in comparison to the national average of 40.9%. With a national average of 41.3% and 44.6% for the state, street and processed food consumption were also found to be comparable by the study report.

    The survey pointed out that 61% of people in West Bengal do not undergo health check-ups when compared to the national average of 47%. The survey also revealed that only 37% of respondents accepted that they undergo health check-ups at least once in 12 months. This is much lower than the national average of 50% and can be one of the important factors behind the high prevalence of NCDs in the state.  

    The delay in seeking treatment by the West Bengal population is also evident from the survey findings which showed that 31% of people in West Bengal seek medical advice only after observing higher stages of symptoms or on compulsion compared to 17% nationally. The survey also pointed out that only 41% of the population seek medical advice after first-stage symptoms while the national average for the same is 56%.

    The delay in seeking treatment by the people of the state can also be understood from their monthly income.  As per the survey, 69% of respondents from the state have a monthly income of less than Rs 10,000. This is lower than the national mean of 56% and has a direct bearing on the ability of people to pay for private medical expenses which is costly.

    Furthermore, the survey highlighted that out-of-pocket expenditure for NCD treatment in West Bengal is 71% which is lower than the national average of 81.2%. Also, the expenditure on treatment of NCDs in the state is lower than the national average with 78% of people spending up to Rs. 10,000 annually towards the treatment of such diseases against the national average of 70%.  This is because people in the state are covered under insurance schemes or seek treatment through society or trust.

    The study observed that while the national prevalence rate of hypertension is 3.60%, its prevalence in West Bengal is 5.13% This is followed by digestive diseases that have a prevalence rate of 4.80% in West Bengal as compared to a national average prevalence rate of 3.19%. Diabetes, Brain/neurological disorders, and respiratory diseases showed 3.53%, 3.50%, and 3.44% prevalence respectively in West Bengal as compared to a national average prevalence rate of 2.85% for diabetes, 1.31% for brain/neurological disorder, and 1.79% for respiratory disease.

    The prevalence of heart disease, kidney disorder, and cancer, though minuscule, is found to be higher in West Bengal than the national average prevalence of these diseases. The prevalence of heart disease in West Bengal is 2.34% in comparison to the national prevalence of 1.01%. On the other hand, kidney disorders at 0.96% and Cancer at 0.17% were also higher in the state in terms of prevalence as compared to the national average prevalence rate of 0.40% and 0.13% respectively for these diseases.

    The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a sharper focus on health care. Patterns emerging from Covid management across the country indicate that people with comorbidities of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have a higher mortality rate than those who do not. This has grave implications for the country not only because of mortality and years of healthy lives lost but also because of India’s health infrastructure.

    The panelists were unanimous in their praise of ASSOCHAM  for coming up with a comprehensive report on non-communicable diseases in the country to create awareness and sensitise the public as well as policymakers who look for such reports. They agreed that NCDs are preventable and with changes in lifestyle, dietary habits, and increase in physical activities among others its prevalence can be reduced/checked. Panelists further stressed the need to take necessary preventive actions for early detection and treatment if conditions of specific NCDs are setting in and towards this strengthen the country’s existing healthcare system to make it accessible to all.

    Dr. Kunal Sarkar, Senior Vice Chairman & Senior Consultant, Cardiac Surgeon, MEDICA Super Specialty Hospital, Kolkata said, “Lifestyle diseases are here to stay as the human body is not meant for the kind of life we live today. This calls for embracing healthy lifestyle habits and regular health vigilance to avoid as well as detect NCDs at an early stage.”

    Dr. Sanjoy Mandal, Senior Consultant GI Surgeon, Specializing in Onco-Surgery and Advance Laparoscopy, AMRI Hospitals, Kolkata commented, “Genes and environment are the major causes of non-communicable diseases. We cannot change our genes, but we can surely work on the environment which constitutes our lifestyle and dietary habits. Today, people are living a sedentary lifestyle which is a major cause of NCDs. We should control our diet, exercise more, and do things in moderation to reduce vulnerability to NCDs.”

    Dr. Sunil Kumar Daksh, Consultant Nephrology, Narayana Group of Hospitals, RTTIcs Mukundpur NSH Howrah, NMH Barasat said, “True definition of health is complete physical, mental, and social well-being. Good health includes optimum sleep, balanced diet, and sound mental health. By being happy, active, and eating healthy we can avoid most NCDs including kidney disorders. And in case of detection, one must consult the doctor early to stop its progression.”

    Starting the panel discussion session with a positive and upbeat note, Dr. Rajesh Kesari, Founder and Director, Total Care Control, said, “We all want to have a good life, but diseases come in the way of our lives. NCDs are responsible for causing around 60% of all deaths all over the world and it is high time we do something to counter it. Healthy lifestyle practices that include the right food and proper exercise are key to a happy and healthy life that we all aspire to live.”The ASSOCHAM webinar was also addressed by Mr. Kaushik Dutta, Founder and Co-Director, Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI).

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