Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

[op-ed snap] Preventing the next health crisis


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of nutrition report, stunting, wasting, non-communicable diseases,

Mains level: Rising levels of obesity in India and associated health dangers


Annual state nutrition report

  1. In March, the government had announced that it would release an annual “state of nutrition” report
  2. It would be detailing India’s level of stunting, malnutrition and feature best practices for States to scale up nutrition interventions

Nutrition challenges

  1. 26 million children in India suffer from wasting (a low weight-for-height ratio)
  2. The country also has the second highest number of obese children in the world

Fighting obesity

  1. India must step up its efforts to fight overweight and obesity just as it has been doing with wasting and stunting
  2. Rising obesity is putting pressure on already fragile health systems in India by posing a high risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers (clubbed together as non-communicable diseases, or NCDs)
  3. Research shows that Indians have higher levels of body fat and lower levels of lean muscle when compared to many other populations
  4. The potent combination of Indian children eating more junk food while becoming increasingly sedentary puts them at an even greater risk

Good opportunity to tackle obesity expansion

  1. This year is an ideal opportunity to tackle obesity
  2. Global health decision-makers are focussing on how to garner the political will to drive “best buys” such as sugar taxes and mass media campaigns on healthy diets
  3. A high-level commission and a UN General Assembly meeting on NCDs are giving new life to existing evidence-based yet largely unimplemented plans of action

Policy interventions that are required

  1. Policy responses should include
  • agricultural systems that promote crop diversity (to enable dietary diversity)
  • regulatory and fiscal measures (to decrease the availability, affordability and promotion of unhealthy foods, while making healthy foods more accessible)

2 India should ban the sale of junk food in and around schools

Obesity management, prevention and treatment should be provided as essential health services

India should link obesity and undernutrition and treat them as twinned challenges to be jointly addressed under the universal health coverage umbrella

Way forward

  1. Tackling obesity benefits the economy and the environment, as healthy and sustainable diets are good for productivity levels and the planet
  2. While tackling undernutrition through assurance of adequate nutrition (usually interpreted as dietary calories), we need to ensure that it is also about appropriate nutrition (the right balance of nutrients)
  3. Our policy response has to move from “food security” to “nutrition security”
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