‘The Lancet’ Calls for Immediate Action to Address India’s Health Challenges

Posted on: January 13th, 2011 by Arogya World

Update January 19, 2011: This important editorial, published in The Hindu, responds to The Lancet‘s series on disease in India, noting that the country’s campaign against chronic diseases must move into high gear.


The much anticipated The Lancet series on health challenges in India, a series of papers on India’s path to universal health coverage, reveals the full extent of the opportunities and difficulties for health in India and points out that “a failing health system is perhaps India’s greatest predicament of all.” While the longstanding health challenges of infectious diseases and maternal and child mortality continue to prevail, in recent years, the incidence of chronic disease in India has skyrocketed – costing millions of lives and having an impact on the national economy that we’re just beginning to understand. And coupled with the “perilously low density of educated health workers across the country” the editors argue, the country’s health is indeed in crisis.

Three members of Arogya World’s Indo-US Scientific Steering Committee, Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, Dr. D. Prabhakaran and Dr. V. Mohan, have papers included in this important and impressive series.

In the article “Chronic Diseases and Injuries in India,” the authors note that chronic diseases and injury are the leading causes of death and disability in India, and they “project pronounced increases in their contribution to the burden of disease during the next 25 years.” They also point out that though cost-effective solutions are available, health care resources for disease prevention are generally low in poor and rural areas. They recommend that immediate action be taken to scale up interventions for chronic diseases, including improving public health and primary health care systems. “The emerging agenda of chronic diseases and injuries should be a political priority,” they say, “and central to national consciousness, if universal health care is to be achieved.”

The statistics they present are startling:

  • Of the 10.3 million deaths in India in 2004, 5.2 million (50%) were due to chronic diseases.
  • More than 20% of the population have at least one chronic disease and more than 10% have more than one.

The Lancet series has earned the attention of the media and the global health community and has raised the profile of non-communicable diseases in economically important India, which as The Lancet editors point out, is “the country with the largest democracy in the world,” and “well positioned to put health high on the political agenda.”