Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are long-term illnesses caused by a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental, and behavioural factors. Cardiovascular diseases (such as heart attacks and strokes), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes are the most common types of NCDs.
Burden of NCDs
- Increase in deaths during productive years (30-70 years)
- Loss of demographic dividend
- NCDs pose a greater threat to progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a target of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one-third by 2030.
- Poverty is strongly linked to NCDs. The rapid rise in NCDs is expected to stymie poverty reduction efforts in low-income countries, particularly by increasing household health-care costs.
- Vulnerable and socially disadvantaged people are sicker and die younger than people in higher social positions, owing to increased exposure to harmful products such as tobacco or unhealthy dietary practises, as well as limited access to health services.
- Health-care costs for NCDs quickly deplete household resources in low-resource settings. NCDs’ exorbitant costs, including often lengthy and expensive treatment and the loss of breadwinners, force millions into poverty each year and stifle development.
The role of AYUSH in addressing the issue of rising NCDs
- Unlike modern medicine, AYUSH takes a more holistic approach, with the goal of promoting overall well-being rather than focusing solely on curing illness.
- This approach is especially important in the case of noncommunicable diseases, which are difficult to treat once they have progressed to chronic conditions.
- On a global scale, more scientific evidence about the health benefits of alternative systems of medicine, particularly Yoga, is becoming available.
- It has been proven beyond doubt that timely interventions with alternative medicines in pre-diabetic and pre-hypertensive conditions can result in disease regression and health restoration.
- Yoga is effective not only in disease prevention and control, but also in disease treatment. Yoga is becoming popular around the world as a way to live a healthier lifestyle.
The way forward
- Gathering scientific evidence for the safety and efficacy of AYUSH medicines and practises is critical.
- Promote capacity building and the development of a critical mass of competent professionals in the AYUSH sector through high-quality education and training at the national and international levels.
- True integration of traditional and modern systems is critical. This would necessitate a concerted strategy for facilitating meaningful cross-learning and collaboration on equal terms between modern and traditional systems.
- The Chinese experience of combining Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine is a good model.
- An Indian parallel could envision the integration of both systems’ education, research, and practise at all levels. This can include AYUSH practitioners being trained in modern medicine through curriculum changes and vice versa.
- Significant groundwork is required in terms of the prerequisites for effective integration.
- Creating a robust corpus of evidence for traditional medicine.
- AYUSH practise and qualification standardisation and regulation
- Outlining each system’s relative strengths, weaknesses, and role in an integrated framework.
- Handling philosophical and conceptual differences between systems.
- Addressing the distinct issues associated with AYUSH research.
- An integrated framework should forge a middle path by fusing the two systems while still allowing them some autonomy.
- As a result, given the massive drive for universal health care already underway in the country and the vast potential of AYUSH to contribute to this cause, a medium- and long-term plan for seamless integration should be developed expeditiously.
Strategies for combating the covid pandemic and noncommunicable disease burden must evolve. Increasing testing and tracing capabilities, as well as reducing the burden on the healthcare system, require all of us to contribute and work together, both individually and as a community.