The National Blueprint in the Making:
Dr. Kenneth Thorpe
As a not-for-profit committed to raising awareness and finding sustainable solutions to address chronic diseases, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) has been working in India over the past several years. Recognising the threat posed by chronic diseases on the social and economic health of a developing country like India, PFCD adopted a tiered stakeholder engagement programme.
The first phase was comprised of a “listening tour” to understand the percolation of the issue amongst key opinion leaders from all related fields including policy, healthcare, research, pharmaceutical, medical technology, finance, insurance, academia, healthcare economics and patient groups. Being a supporter of efforts to promote health and wellness by preventing and better managing chronic diseases, PFCD was encouraged by the increased discussions on the subject across all relevant stakeholder groups.
PFCD launched the second phase of the programme – an extensive advocacy campaign aimed at bringing about a shift in the current conversations from “issue stating” to “problem solving”. This phase focused on creating an ecosystem of stakeholders from all relevant groups to advocate for action on the issue and the identification and development of concrete solutions.
The PFCD then moved onto the final phase which consists of developing an evidence-based National Blueprint on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) – “Sankalp – Disha Swastha Bharat ki”, a one-of-its-kind initiative in India.
The objective of the Blueprint is to devise a framework to control and prevent the growing burden of NCDs in India through a collective multi-sectoral response. Salvaging the nation from the growing human and economic toll of chronic disease requires a realistic policy intervention, efficient surveillance, robust healthcare financing system and strengthening the existing healthcare systems.
In developing this evidence-based action plan, PFCD adopted a tiered engagement framework including periodic discussions and interactive sessions with key decision-makers from the Government, both at the centre as well as some of the key states. This included four regional multistakeholder consultations in 2014 and one in 2015. Over 100 key opinion leaders from across the country representing the public health, policy, private healthcare providers, public and private insurance providers, private diagnostic firms, health economists and patient groups deliberated over the current scenario and suggested innovative measures to address the growing burden of NCDs.
The paper identifies three thematic tracks converging to form this evidence based pathway, specifically: Policy and Surveillance, Strengthening of Healthcare Systems and Healthcare Financing. Subsequently, four prominent health and NCD experts formed a National Advisory Group, aided by a Working Group for each of the three thematic tracks to guide the development of the National NCD Blueprint.
With this pathway, PFCD aims complement the Government of India’s efforts towards curbing the incidence of NCDs in the country and bringing a positive and constructive shift from issue-stating to problem-solving, within the unavoidable constraints that exist. The primary target audiences for this document are all related stakeholders at the central and state governments as well as the private sector. The Blueprint showcases best practices and preventive measures to adopt innovative programmes for prevention and control of the growing burden of NCDs in India.
Some of the experts who have significantly contributed in the plan include:
Systems Resource Centre
Dr. Prabhakaran Dorairaj
Centre for Chronic
Disease Control (CCDC)
Dr. SV Madhu
President,Research Society for
the Study of Diabetes
Dr. Indrani Gupta
Professor & Head,
Institute of Economic Growth
Lady Hardinge Medical
Dr. Anand Krishnan
Professor & Head,
Centre for Community
India, as it stands at this crucial interjection has an opportunity to improve the quality of life for its citizens and lay the foundations for a truly prosperous future – a future that will be free of NCDs for generations to come.
Need for Efficient Public Healthcare Spending with Focus on NCDs
In the past few years, NCDs have certainly taken a centre-stage and become the leading cause of death and sickness when compared with the communicable diseases. There is an urgent need for revising spending norms in the healthcare sector with a focus on curbing the rising non-communicable disease (NCD) burden and this can be achieved through better coordination and adoption of best practices to address the economic and social burden of chronic disease
Currently, diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer are taking as many as 63% of the lives in India. India is 184th out of 191 countries in terms of per capita public health spending with government (central, state and local) being the source of about one-third of spending while out-of-pocket payments represents about 58% – one of the highest percentages in the world. To meet the challenge of rising numbers of NCD cases, the need of the hour is to develop an efficient mechanism of allocating public health spend.
NCDs can be effectively addressed through actions across various ministries and sectors. The ministries of agriculture, food processes, transport, urban development, labour, commerce, urban and rural local bodies, all need to work together to promote healthy lifestyle as well as reduce intake of salt and sugar; etc. This can be done only if health issues are incorporated and addressed in all policies.
Provision of financial risk protection to the population, through public and private insurance can surely reduce dependence on out-of-pocket payments. With the current objective of establishing an overall ‘accessible, affordable and effective’ healthcare system in the country, we need a universal framework which can spearhead a focused program to ensure effective awareness and early diagnosis to prevent and control NCDs.
The urgent requirement is to understand the need for an integrated approach to tackle the spread of non-communicable diseases, through involvement of individuals, state governments and the centre on one platform. An annual healthcare budget for NCDs must be set aside for delivering public health services to patients. Healthcare financing models need to be developed with public and private collaboration to reduce the burden of expenses of both the government and the public.
Spending should be increased on primary care with focus on preventive care. Education and awareness for individual-level interventions, promotion of healthy behavior, regular health checkups, reduction of salt/sugar intake, promoting physical activity, early detection and treatment are some factors that need to be focused upon. All this will limit disease progression and costs incurred on expensive treatment.
To effectively address the growing burden of NCDs in India, the multi-sectoral nature of interventions is important to emphasize. Besides the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare some other ministries like Agriculture, Environment etc can also be brought onto the same platform.
A policy level shift in making sure health assurance as a package becomes a reality needs to be done. Many citizens of India are still left uncovered by any health insurance or financing and it is potentially disastrous if something is not done on a war footing to ensure coverage. Healthcare financing can also witness a boost if the current CSR obligations in the Companies Act can call out for more specific investments in healthcare infrastructure building, provision of healthcare services to the needy and economically weaker sections, programs for building awareness around cancer, tobacco consumption, safe copulation, infant and women health and obesity.
Rising NCDs in India; Ignorance is not Bliss
With NCDs contributing to 53% of the country’s disease burden, experts call for massive efforts
Despite an increase in the life expectancy, health experts in the country are concerned at the increasing gap of healthy life and the fast changing health transition.
According to a well-research report published in www.indiaspend.org — India’s first data journalism initiative fostering data-led analysis and discussing important policy issue — the gap between the increase in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy is a clear indication that people will lose some years of their life to disease or disability.
“Closing this gap entails dispelling the popular notion that ageing means ill health, among other things, because the fastest-growing cause for disability-adjusted life years, lost healthy years for Indians are non-communicable diseases, chronic conditions that the general population associates with ageing, but should not be,” the report said.
Most health experts admit that the rising burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in India is also due to the ignorance levels about NCDs and associated risk factors, even amongst the affluent, educated and well-informed urban Indians. In rural India, there is an added problem of inadequate diagnostic and healthcare facilities.
PFCD Chairman Dr. Kenneth E. Thorpe says although most people have heard about NCDs, hearing about it doesn’t constitute sufficient awareness to live healthy
Dr. Thorpe and other experts like Dr. Damodar Bachani, Director Professor at Lady Hardinge Medical College, and National Advisory Group member of PFCD India, “Lack of awareness about NCDs and the risk factors is just the tip
of the iceberg. In India, we have to do away with this notion that most NCDs are age related ailments and part of the natural ageing process. This would require mass awareness and advocacy efforts.”
News in focus
The future of health in India
NCDs are Preventable: Dr. Kenneth Thorpe discusses the current NCD spread in India and gives a reality check to the Indian Health Sector. A problem solving analysis with respect to the economic loss due to NCDs brings out various steps that can easily be taken at the individual level and should be taken at societal, state and central government level. Dr. Kenneth Thorpe shares his views on the current healthcare expenditure for Non Communicable Diseases in the health sector and the need for a smartly planned, adequately financed and efficiently administered public healthcare system. One that earmarks a major portion of the annual healthcare budget towards addressing them. This will mobilize adequate funds for the delivery of public health interventions, medical services, and counselling of patients.
25% of Indians may die of lifestyle diseases before they are 70: Study
An analysis of the findings of a white paper released at the CII National NCD Summit, showcases the growing NCD disease burden highlighting the urgency of action necessary in this regard.
“Prevalence of NCDs is a result of lifestyle patterns which have changed significantly over the last decade. The government’s programmes so far have been focused around HIV and tropical diseases. But with the increasing NCD burden, awareness needs to be created and ramped up from community level to across the country” – Kevin L. Walker, Executive Director, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease.
Experts call out for efficient public healthcare spending
Experts and health policy analysts have strongly advocated the urgent need for revising spending norms in the healthcare sector with a focus on curbing the rising non-communicable disease (NCD) burden as necessitated by the changing disease profile in the country. This can be achieved through better coordination and adoption of best practices to arrest the economic and social burden of chronic disease in India.
Healthcare at your doorstep
Dr. Kenneth Thorpe recommends the importance of shifting focus from disease-centered to patient-centered approach.
“Such facilities align with our recommendation of shifting focus from disease-centred to patient-centred with regards to NCDs.
Home healthcare facilities enhance the process of NCDs management, enable optimisation of outcomes and ensure continuity of care.”
“PFCD is working with health experts in India to develop a national blueprint to control and prevent the growing burden of NCDs through a collective multi-sectoral response to ensure highest standards of health in the country.”
Experts are discussing the changing trends in studies done on cholesterol with a shift from targeting cholesterol as the only major cause of heart diseases to considering many other causes of heart illnesses.
Kenneth Thorpe, Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease shared his views on the same.
“There is sufficient global evidence suggesting that reducing salt, sugar and transfat in the diet can prevent major non-communicable diseases and mortality.”
Download the October 2015 PFCD India Newsletter.