The unseen cost of covid’s long shadow on India (Editorial)

How Covid-19 impacted other healthcare conditions?  


Ever since the inception of pandemic, India’s collective attention, resources and energy of the health system have focused only on the coronavirus. This left every other health-related concern to take a back seat. This covid-induced shadow has already worsened the “routine” ailments of many. 

What is the evidence of neglecting other diseases? 
  1. Even normal immunization schedules and health services for women and children have suffered because of the battle against covid-19. This has so far infected more than 30 million Indians. 
  2. The functioning of National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) was seriously hit by the pandemic.  
    • This result in, more people are approaching hospitals with diseases like cancer at an advanced stage, uncontrolled diabetes, heart ailments, and more. 
    • Around 30% fewer people with cardiac emergencies could reach health facilities in rural areas in March 2021 than last year. 
  3. The recently published National NCD Monitoring Survey (NNMS) showed some important figures.   
    • Two in five adults have three or more risk factors for NCDs. 
    • The longer they stay out of the health system’s radar—either due to fear of covid or due to limited access—the more susceptible they would become to illnesses. 
  4. The lockdowns and restrictions on movement have also changed the lifestyle of people. This has resulted in obesity and increased the risk of diabetes and hypertension. 
  5. Stroke rehabilitation and stroke prevention, adequate and optimal control of stroke risk factors have all taken a hit.  
  6. Fallout on the fight against tuberculosis: India reported a 24% year-on-year fall in tuberculosis registrations last year, according to the India TB Report 2021. This makes India’s pre-pandemic aim to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global target date a tougher one.  
What will be the expected outcomes of this neglect? 
  1. The already heavy burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs)—diabetes, hypertension, kidney ailments and stroke—is almost certain to rise 
  2. Many health experts believe that the health deficit of the early 2020s might leave generational ripples. Even threatening the gains that the country had achieved earlier with decades-old battle against a slew of ailments. 
  3. Another study also showed that the onset of diabetes during the covid era is more severe than in the pre-covid era. 
  4. The study done by the National Cancer Grid, predicted an additional 98,650-131,500 cancer deaths within the next five years. 
  5. World Health Organization (WHO) survey released in May 2020 projected an increase in deaths due to heart ailments, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.  
  6. India is also likely to miss the deadline for the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as kala azar and lymphatic filariasis.  


Suggestions to focus on overall health care: 
  • Focus on ending the Covid-19 cycle faster: A rapid ramp up in vaccination and concerted efforts to mitigate the third wave of covid will certainly help. It would offer some breathing room for healthcare institutions and provide time to re-focus their attention toward the other treatments such as NCDs and more common ailments 
  • Switch towards digital means: NNMS (National Non-Communicable Disease Monitoring Survey) calls for a rapid spike in the use of telemedicine and teleconsultation. It is particularly important for the treatment of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. 
  • Strengthening community-level healthcare: The pandemic experience shown that the lack of access to healthcare services in the prime cause for all these menaces. So, India has to strengthen community level healthcare to improve access to health care and prevent India from future such scenarios. 

Source: LiveMint 

Print Friendly and PDF