THE WAY WE DIE

India Today - - NATION / HEALTH - BY DAMAYANTI DATTA

IF the mea­sure of good life is counted in years, here’s a bit of good news. In­di­ans are liv­ing longer, up from 32 years at the time of In­de­pen­dence to nearly 70 years now, and liv­ing health­ier: the num­ber of years lost to ill-health, dis­abil­ity or pre­ma­ture death has dropped 36 per cent per capita be­tween 1990 and 2016.

The fu­ture looks bright. Or does it? Why does In­dia, the ris­ing eco­nomic star of South Asia, have the sec­ond low­est life ex­pectancy, 11 years less than even tiny Sri Lanka? How come it car­ries a 72 per cent higher bur­den of dis­ease than China? The para­dox be­comes acute when one digs into the state of the na­tion’s states: as many as 10 of them fall short of the na­tional life span; men in As­sam die 10 years before their broth­ers in Ker­ala; of the 45,000 new moth­ers who die every year in In­dia, 70 per cent are from just eight states.

Send­ing out an alert is the first-of-it­skind In­dian study, map­ping sick­ness and health across states, be­tween 1990 and 2016. Funded by the Union health min­istry and the Gates Foun­da­tion, in­ves­ti­gated by 1,000 ex­perts from about 100 in­sti­tu­tions, led by the Pub­lic Health Foun­da­tion of In­dia (PHFI), the In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search and In­sti­tute for Health Met­rics and Eval­u­a­tion, the re­sults out last week nail the big pic­ture, and the small de­tails, too.

The re­port shows chronic non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble life­style dis­or­ders—heart dis­ease to chronic re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­or­ders, stroke to di­a­betes—are as­sum­ing the largest dis­ease bur­den. Yet, In­dia can­not turn its back on the age-old chal­lenges of mal­nu­tri­tion or in­fec­tious dis­eases. “In­dia is in the grip of a health tran­si­tion, with each state at var­i­ous stages of change,” says Prof. K. Sri­nath Reddy, pres­i­dent, PHFI, who pre­sented the study on Novem­ber 21 in New Delhi. “The amount of health dis­par­ity across states, of­ten masked by na­tional num­bers, is shock­ing,” he adds. “We have to look at asym­me­tries and cor­rect them.”

A NEW RE­PORT ON SICK­NESS AND HEALTH ACROSS THE NA­TION, FOR THE FIRST TIME, MAPS WHAT RE­ALLY AILS US

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