Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the “Fit India Movement", highlighting the need to stay healthy amid rising instances of lifestyle disorders and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The campaign was announced at an event organized to celebrate the National Sports Day.
Public health experts agreed with the PM’s view that physical activity has reduced due to the advent of technology, leading to disorders such as cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. The World Health Organization (WHO), too, blames unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity for increasing instances of high blood pressure, increase in blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity. In fact, NCDs, or metabolic risk factors, lead to cardiovascular diseases, the primary reason behind premature deaths.
The burden of NCDs is considerable in India. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the estimated proportion of all deaths due to NCDs has increased from 37.09% in 1990 to 61.8% in 2016. WHO has recognized diabetes as a growing challenge in India with an estimated 8.7% diabetic population between the age group of 20 and 70 years. As per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, 11% of women (1 in 10) and 15% of men (1 in 7) of 15-49 years are hypertensive. In India, the Global Disease Burden (GBD) 2015 ranks chronic kidney disease as the eighth leading cause of death.
“Fit India is an idea whose time has come, but it needs to be properly and scientifically executed, particularly directed towards vulnerable groups in children, women and people belonging to middle and low socio-economic strata," said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC, Centre for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology. The Union ministry of health and family welfare is running a National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular diseases and Stroke.
“Fit India Movement will be a very interesting campaign for everyone—children, the elderly, the young and women, and it will be your own movement. I want to make you aware about fitness and for a fit India, we should unite to set some goals for the country," Modi had earlier said in his weekly radio programme, Mann Ki Baat.
Public health experts have come out in support of Modi for the campaign. “The Prime Minister rightfully points out that walking was part of our culture, where individuals used to walk 8-9km every day. An appropriate built environment, which was integral to our planning earlier, needs to be brought back. Physical activity is known as the ‘wonder drug’ that prevents more than 30 diseases," said Shifalika Goenka, professor and head of public health ethics, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI).
“Through fitness and physical activity, we can decrease the hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cholesterol and cancer levels, to name a few, in the entire population. We can improve cognition in children and elderly, and improve mental health and lower depression and improve productivity. This will also lower our health care costs and improve economic productivity," she added.
Apprehensions also remain before India achieves the “Fit India" tag in the form of lacunas in pollution, infrastructure, lack of safe public spaces such as parks, walking routes and cycling tracks.
“WHO statistics say one in four adults globally is not active enough, while more than 80% of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently active," said Shankar Narang, chief operating officer, Paras Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. “An hour of sports and physical activity every day must be made mandatory in schools. At the same time, workplaces must also be encouraged to join the movement by dedicating 30 minutes of their daily space to some sort of physical exercise," he added.