The government has proposed a research agenda for covid-19 in relation to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer, heart and kidney ailments, which puts people with these conditions, especially the elderly, at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by the novel coronavirus.
According to the scientists at the National Centre for Disease Informatics and Research, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the proposed agenda can strategically guide the preparedness of the health system to include NCDs in the response to the pandemic.
The scientists, in a review, have proposed health-care delivery, use of technology, surveillance-monitoring-evaluation, governance and policy, as the key research domains. According to the review, NCDs account for nearly 62% of the deaths in India.
“Covid-19 pandemic is characterized with attenuation of innate immunity and a pro-inflammatory response which could accelerate many NCDs and their occurrence. Several steps taken to minimize the spread of infection, social distancing, restricted mobility, and advise to stay indoors have resulted in disruption of routine health-care access and service delivery and supplies to essential food, medicines, and diagnostics," said Dr Prashant Mathur and Dr Sukanya Rangamani, authors of the review.
“The consequent economic situation could increase stress levels to impact NCDs. Since the scale of risk for NCDs is still not clear, strong NCD preventive and early diagnosis steps will be required to protect individuals and vulnerable groups," the researchers said.
The review highlighted the leading risk factors for NCDs as use of tobacco, alcohol, inadequate fruit and vegetable intake, high systolic blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, drug abuse, high total cholesterol, high body mass index and low physical activity and air pollution.
“There were cases of severe diabetes seen in those who have suffered from covid-19. All this will increase diabetes and complication burden substantially. All NCD programs need immediate strengthening," said Dr Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.
According to union health ministry, about 75% of fatalities due to covid-19 were among the elderly and those with co morbid conditions suffering from NCDs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people with pre-existing NCDs are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus such as cardiovascular disease (e.g. hypertension, persons who have had, or are at risk for, a heart attack or stroke), Chronic respiratory disease, Diabetes and cancer. Smoking also makes people vulnerable to covid-19.
“There is increasing evidence that impaired lung function due to smoking and susceptibility to noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes as a result of continued tobacco use, is putting people at higher risk for developing health complications when affected by covid-19," said Dr Harit Chaturvedi, Chairman - Max Institute of Cancer Care.