New Delhi: Multiple stakeholders, both from the government and the private sector, need to come together to tackle the growing burden of non-communicable diseases, according to panelists who participated in a discussion on the subject at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Sunday.
“The government alone cannot do anything. We need private partners to make a difference,” said Dinesh Trivedi, minister of state for health and family welfare. “Eighty per cent of the healthcare delivery in India is private, so we want to partner with private sector to take things forward.”
The panel included, besides Trivedi, Antonio Helio Waszyk, chairman and MD, Nestle India Ltd; Ramesh Subrahmanian, senior vice-president, Merck & Co., and president (Asia Pacific) for Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) India; Scott Ratzan, vice-president, global health, Johnson and Johnson; Sandip Patel, president, Aetna Inc.; and Harish Narula, president, Lupin Ltd.
“Health assets need to be built now and this can only be done through education and awareness,” said Ratzan.
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Non-communicable diseases are those caused by risk factors including lifestyle choices—drug and alcohol use, improper diet, lack of exercise, for instance. They include heart ailments, cancer and diabetes.
Subrahmanian said non-communicable diseases are a public health emergency now and the opportunity cost being incurred due to them is huge.
He said creating awareness is imperative, as is creating medical assets wherein people are aware of the diseases that can threaten them. At the same time, “one has to look at non-communicable diseases in terms of public awareness as well as personal choice. There may be awareness but each individual has to take preventive measures himself”, he said.
The lessons learnt from tackling infectious diseases in India have to be applied to the projects for tackling non-communicable diseases. “Multinationals must start somewhere. Take up some project. We have in the pipeline, a project where we are planning to put up diagnostic centres in every railway station in the country in order to improve access,” said Trivedi.
India is set to lose nearly $230 billion (Rs 10.26 trillion) between 2005 and 2015 owing to the economic burden of non-communicable diseases. “This is no longer a small thing. It is a huge problem and has to be tackled at every level,” said Ratzan.