THE WAY WE DIE
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