The gravely deteriorating quality of the air around has become a matter of serious contention in recent years, propelling both public and private bodies to closely look into ameliorating the situation. Now, in an effort to understand the burden of respiratory diseases caused mainly by air pollution and lifestyle changes, a study has been initiated in the city under the Research Unit on Respiratory Health (RESPIRE) project. Tied up with the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, the study is being helped by the University of Edinburgh, while research is being funded by the NHS National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) of the United Kingdom, conducted across nations like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia. Here, it will take place at two locations — Vellore and Pune. “The program aims to collect data on emerging respiratory disorders, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), asthma, lung cancer, pneumonia and more, obtain evidence and possible interventions that could be adopted to reduce deaths cause,” said Rutuja Patil, one of the researchers who also works at the KEM Research Center, adding that once the data of the actual burden in known, strategies on interventions at the local level, best delivery mechanisms for reducing the toll and supporting implementation efforts can be achieved.
Interestingly, she added that respiratory diseases among rural and urban populations due to air pollution are almost the same. Principal project coordinator from KEM Dhiraj Agarwal added, “There is very little data on deaths and the impact of respiratory diseases on human health in India. Moreover, existing data is not very helpful, as the methodology used is not robust.” He further said that the majority of urban and rural India is exposed to air pollution due to industrialization, urbanization, occupational hazards, particles, biomass use and more factors. “Over 50 percent of the population suffers from respiratory disease,” he said, informing that more than 70 percent of the rural population is still dependent on biomass in India. “Through intensive case studies, questionnaires and algorithms, the study would help realize how many people are actually suffering from these diseases. Exact diagnoses would be determined and also the misdiagnosis that happens on a substantial scale could be ruled out,” Agarwal told Mirror, adding that outcomes of the study would enable formulation of policy and chalk out a strategy to combat the issue.
The expert also said that different risk factors causing chronic respiratory diseases could be discovered. “With increasing air problems, it is crucial to know what types of pollutions and factors cause specific respiratory ailments. There needs to be good knowledge on the same,” Agarwal asserted. “The burden of COPD and other respiratory diseases in India is increasing. The study on a nationwide scale would be economically unviable, so it is being carried out at two centers,” informed principal investigator Sanjay Juvekar, also from KEM, adding that many factors that cause a serious health impact, like a sedentary lifestyle, often go undocumented. “We really need to know about all diseases that spread in the form of infections and non-infections,” he said. – Pune Mirror