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Lifestyle Diseases Taking Toll on Kerala’s Health Index: Economic Review

Kerala’s famed health indices are poised to face an uphill task of sustainability due to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD) at an alarming rate, according to the state economic review-2018, which was presented in the Assembly on Wednesday. While the recent health index report, prepared by the World Bank and the NITI Aayog, has ranked Kerala at the top among the states in terms of health performance, the economic review paints a grim scenario. The report has raised serious concern about sustaining the achievements of the health sector – such as high life expectancy, low infant mortality rate, low birth and death rates – as lifestyle diseases, or NCDs, such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, cancer and geriatric problems become rampant. The report said that while 42 percent of total deaths in India are due to NCDs, in Kerala more than 52 percent of total deaths in the productive age group of 30-59 years is due to such diseases. The report states, “Studies show that 27 percent of Kerala adult males have diabetes mellitus compared to 15 percent at the national level; 19 percent of adult female population is diabetic, compared to 11 percent in India. Genetic predisposition, dietary habits and sedentary lifestyle are considered to be the reason for this phenomenon.” It noted that 40.6 percent of adult men and 38.5 percent of adult women suffer from hypertension, compared to 30.7 percent and 31.9 percent, respectively, at the national level.

“Incidents of obesity, hyper lipedemia, heart attack and stroke are also high. Cancer mortality is extremely high in males in Kerala compared to the national average,” it said. The report blames rampant modernisation and urbanisation, drastic lifestyle changes, alcohol and tobacco abuse, affinity for white-collar jobs, unhealthy eating patterns, low priority for physical exertion, high levels of stress, among others, for the rise of non-communicable diseases in the state. It said that unless interventions are made to address NCDs, their burden is likely to increase substantially in future as the population ages and lifestyle changes continue. Considering the high cost of medicines and longer duration of treatment, this constitutes a greater financial burden to low income groups. It may be noted that Kerala, which has achieved below-replacement-level fertility much earlier than other states, has the highest proportion of elderly among Indian the states. Of the state’s population of 3.34 crore, aged population (above 60 years) is 42 lakh. This has substantial implications on the state’s socio-economic situation. The growth in population of senior citizens has put economic stress on the state’s working age population. The old age dependency ratio of India as per 2011 census is 142, whereas it is 196 in Kerala due to higher life expectancy at birth. – Indian Express


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