Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heart Disease in India

Indians are the most likely people in the world to have heart related problems. To those Indians whose close ones were at one time or another affected by heart disease, this may not be that much of a suprise. While a great deal of attention is (appropriately) being focused on the AIDS epidemic in India, heart disease is not given much priority. The accounts from doctors are alarming.
The size of the problem is staggering. Even if the above predictions turn out to be inflated, India is ill equipped to deal with problems on such a colossal scale. The cost to India in terms of rupees spent, human resources lost and emotional, will be colossal.

Part of the problem may be that we Indians don't have a central health information resource specific to the Indian population. Even for a third-world country, this is surprising. When we try to find information online, we are assured by websites for Americans or Europeans that until we are in our 40s, we are safe and need not worry about heart problems. However, this is true only for American and European populations. Indians are susceptible from the time they enter their 30s.

India needs premier central health institutes that can fund research into the epidemiology of medical problems, disseminate information that is relevant to the Indian population, and track the progress of strategies to counter the spread of such problems in the Indian population. Existing institutions such as AIIMS currently provide the best medical care, but do not have large-scale, nationwide epidemiology programmes. Of course we need hospitals, but without epidemiologic knowledge, we are simply shooting in the dark.

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