COPD, other air pollution related diseases on rise, says new health data

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Incidence of non-communicable diseases in India rose by 25 % since 1990: Report

There were, however, continuing inequalities among states, ranging from 66.8 years in Uttar Pradesh to 78.7 years in Kerala for females, and 63.6 years in Assam to 73.8 years in Kerala for males in 2016.

The contribution of air pollution to disease burden has remained high in India between 1990 and 2016, with levels of exposure among the highest in the world.

The under-five mortality rate has reduced substantially from 1990 in all states, the report said, adding that there was a four-fold difference in this rate between states.

Lifestyle diseases like heart ailments, diabetes and injuries constitute the major disease burden of most Indian states in the last 25 years.

The burden due to non-communicable disease and injuries has overtaken the burden due to infectious and maternal-child diseases in every state of India, though this happened in some states about three decades ago and in some other states more recently.

Calling for immediate measures, the report says that control of air pollution has to be ramped up through inter-sectoral collaborations based on the specific situation of each state.

"Now non-communicable diseases constitute almost 25% of the disease burden in the states".

The India State-level Disease Burden Initiative is a collaboration between the Indian Council of Medical Research, Public Health Foundation of India, and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and experts and stakeholders now from close to 100 institutions across India. The contribution of this group of risks increased massively to a quarter of the total disease burden in India in 2016.

The goal of this Initiative, which was launched in October 2015, was to produce the best possible state-level disease burden and risk factors trends from 1990 onward as part of the Global Burden of Disease study, utilising all identifiable epidemiological data from India and in close engagement with the leading health scientists of India. In 1990, 61% of the total disease burden in India was attributed to communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases. For example, the life expectancy of a person born in India in 1960 was 40 years, which has increased to about 70years now. Air pollution was the second leading risk factor in India, contributing to India's burden of cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and lower respiratory infections.

Air pollution, which was the third largest risk factor in the country in 1990, moved to the second position in the year 2016.

"While the total burden from air pollution in India declined between 1990 and 2016, this was largely driven by efforts to reduce the use of solid fuels in households". Worse, this health crisis is characterised by widening disparity between India's relatively more prosperous and poorer states and can potentially impair its demographic dividend. If calculated in terms of life years lost due to air pollution led disabilities like COPD or heart disease or what medical experts call DALYs, Delhi had a DALY rate of 1890 from air pollution compared to 4308 in Bihar and 4390 in Uttar Pradesh. "This knowledge has the potential of making fundamental and long-term contributions to improving health in every state", said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Director-General of ICMR.

Even though Delhi has now been facing a deteriorating quality of air due to pollution, it faces a marginally lower health risks, when compared to states like Bihar.

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