Mumbai: Three major lifestyle diseases—heart ailments, stroke and diabetes—that have gripped India’s productive population, are estimated to erode the country’s gross national income by as much as $200 billion (Rs8,40,000 crore) by 2015, according to a recent study by consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The consulting firm estimates that India’s loss, in terms of potentially productive years, due to deaths from cardiovascular diseases in people aged between 35 and 64 years is one of the highest in the world. By 2030, the cumulative loss in productive years for India is expected to be 17.9 million years, 940% more than the loss estimated in the US.
Dr Ramakanta Panda, a leading cardiac surgeon and vice-chairman of Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, says he is not surprised by the findings of the PwC survey. “Fourteen years ago, when I started practicing in India, I used to see about one young (below 40 years) patient every two months, now I see a few every week,” says Dr. Panda. “The situation has reached an alarming proportion.”
The PwC report, titled Working Towards Wellness: An Indian Perspective, identifies chronic disease as a growing and costly threat to Indian corporations and their workers. “Deaths from chronic diseases would register a sharp increase from 3.78 million in 1990 to 7.63 million in 2020, accounting for 66.7% of all deaths,” the report states. In 2005, heart disease, stroke and diabetes accounted for almost 53% of all deaths in India and 44% of disability-adjusted life years.
It goes on to say that the economic toll of chronic disease for developing and developed nations around the world is estimated at approximately 3% of the gross domestic product, globally.
In the study, PwC says it has examined the challenges faced by businesses as a consequence of the growing epidemic of chronic disease and found that approximately 2% of capital spent on workforce is lost to disability, absenteeism and diminished productivity from ailing employees who work below par due to chronic diseases. Collectively, these indirect costs are more than the direct medical claim costs that some employers incur.
The Indian survey is actually part of a global study initiated by the PwC Healthcare Research Institute, a research cell within PwC, for the World Economic Forum early this year. The report estimates the income loss due to chronic diseases in India with reference to a World Health Organization (WHO) study of 2005. The WHO data showed that the income loss due to lifestyle diseases among the productive population was $8.7 billion in India. The PwC estimate on the national income erosion by 2015 is based on WHO’s 2005 statistics.
With India’s young (productive) population estimated to be about 50% by 2015, chronic diseases affecting this section of the country’s population take a toll on national productivity. WHO projects that by 2020, chronic diseases will account for almost three-quarters of all deaths worldwide, and that 71% of deaths due to cardiac disease, 75% of deaths due to stroke, and 70% of deaths due to diabetes will occur in developing countries. “On a global basis, 60% of the burden of chronic diseases will occur in developing countries. Indeed, cardiovascular diseases are even now more numerous in India and China than in all the economically developed countries in the world put together,” a WHO study says.
From the drug industry perspective, the Indian cardiovascular drug market, which is estimated to be Rs2,500 crore a year, is currently 10% of the total Rs25,000 crore drug market. The market for diabetes drugs is estimated to be worth over Rs1,000 crore. “These are the two fastest-growing segments with annual growth rates of 15% and 17%, respectively,” says Kirit Gogri, a leading pharma analyst with Mumbai-based equity research firm, ASK Raymond James.
Some Indian corporations, especially large ones, are realizing the importance of employees’ health and are beginning to invest in wellness programmes.
“Indian multinationals in the information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services segments have been prominent in using the workplace to promote long-term health behavioural change to the measurable benefit of themselves, their employees and local communities,” said Rajarshi Sengupta, executive director and leader of PwC’s healthcare practice in India. “These companies run a number of wellness programmes covering employees from both the IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) sector to attract and retain talented, healthy employees.”
Some of the programmes rolled out at IT companies such as Wipro and Infosys include nutrition consulting, health centres, medical camps, employee well-being events as well as initiatives to provide counselling for employees of the company. Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the largest maker of cosmetics and food products in India, also runs an employee wellness programme. “In cases of employees affected with chronic diseases such as hypertension, obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes, we continuously monitor their condition and proactively advise and provide medical assistance to better manage the condition,” says Dr T. Rajgopal, vice-president, occupational health.