Childhood obesity has become a major societal concern. Rates of obesity among preschool and school-age children have more than doubled in the past three decades: 14% of 2- to 5-year-olds and 19% of 6- to 11-year olds are obese (Ogden et al. 2006; Ogden et al. 2002). The increased rates of obesity have become a public health concern because obesity is associated with chronic disease and adverse health outcomes (Institute of Medicine 2005).

India leads the world with largest number of diabetic subjects earning the dubious distinction of being termed the “diabetes capital of the world”. According to the Diabetes Atlas 2006 published by the International Diabetes Federation, the number of people with diabetes in India currently around 40.9 million is expected to rise to 69.9 million by 2025 unless urgent preventive steps are taken.

At the present stage of India's health transition, chronic diseases contribute to an estimated 53% of deaths and 44% of disability-adjusted life-years lost. Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are highly prevalent in urban areas. Tobacco-related cancers account for a large proportion of all cancers. Tobacco consumption, in diverse smoked and smokeless forms, is common, especially among the poor and rural population segments. Hypertension and dyslipidaemia, although common, are inadequately detected and treated.

At the present stage of India's health transition, chronic diseases contribute to an estimated 53% of deaths and 44% of disability-adjusted life-years lost. Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are highly prevalent in urban areas. Tobacco-related cancers account for a large proportion of all cancers. Tobacco consumption, in diverse smoked and smokeless forms, is common, especially among the poor and rural population segments. Hypertension and dyslipidaemia, although common, are inadequately detected and treated.

At the present stage of India's health transition, chronic diseases contribute to an estimated 53% of deaths and 44% of disability-adjusted life-years lost. Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are highly prevalent in urban areas. Tobacco-related cancers account for a large proportion of all cancers. Tobacco consumption, in diverse smoked and smokeless forms, is common, especially among the poor and rural population segments. Hypertension and dyslipidaemia, although common, are inadequately detected and treated.

The prevalence of diabetes mellitus (DM) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) is increasing in urban India. Overweight in adolescence is a marker of overweight in adult age, and it shows an association with the above diseases. There have been meagre data from India on the prevalence of childhood obesity. The objective of the study was to quantify the prevalence of overweight and its risk factors in adolescent children in urban India. School students in the age group of 13-18 years (n = 4700, M:F 2382:2318) were studied. Body mass index (BMI) was measured.

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the Western World. For effective treatment and prevention strategies to be put in place, the major risk factors associated with this disease must be identified. Data show that almost 300 variables are statistically associated with CHD. However, evidence suggests that the vast majority of coronary events can be explained on the basis of blood pressure, lipids, smoking, and diabetes.

Doctors on call brings you a quick update on this new report investigating environmental triggers and how they affect our health. "Over 61% of all deaths in India are due to lifestyle or non-communicable diseases (NCDs). But India cannot curb NCDs unless environmental risk factors are addressed" shows a latest research publication on the state of India's health by the CSE. We also spoke to Vibha Varshney, Associate Editor, Down To Earth about these new findings.

A new report from the Centre for Science and Environment shows that lifestyle diseases or non-communicable diseases are responsible for more than 61 per cent of all deaths in India. Whether it is heart diseases, respiratory illnesses, cancer, obesity or food allergies, new research reveals that the rise in their incidences is due to factors such as rapid urbanisation, air pollution and changes in diet rather than in our genes. The new report called Body Burden: Lifestyle Diseases is essentially a report card on the state of health in India.

Non-communicable diseases (NCD) or lifestyle diseases may not have appeared among the top ten diseases in the country, but they were increasing at an alarming rate and were an unwelcome addition to infectious diseases, which were still of grave concern to the health of the Bhutanese, say health officials. Figures in the health ministry's 2007 bulletin, which features a selected number of lifestyle diseases by their hierarchy of prevalence among Bhutanese, indicate that all are on the rise. Musculoskeletal disorder, caused by a job or activity, requiring a fixed position over a long period of time and associated with poor workplace design, topped the list with about 71,849 patients being referred to various hospitals around the country in 2006, an increase by more than 11,000 from the previous year. Hypertension, most commonly referred to as "high blood pressure', which develops in people, who have a fairly high intake of salt, followed with 20,501 patients being diagnosed with the disease, a steep climb compared with 16,570 patients in 2006 and 14,195 in 2004. About 1,531 patients visiting hospitals across the country in 2006 were for alcohol liver diseases, which involves an acute or chronic inflammation of the liver, induced by alcohol abuse. That was an increase from 1,217 in 2005. Diabetes, which has a higher prevalence among people in their old age and is caused by high sugar levels, accounted for 1,470 patients in 2006, an increase by more than 500 from the previous year. Although the trend may not be the same in the case of cancer, it is also on the rise from 555 patients diagnosed with the disease in 2005 to 587 in 2006. At present, there exists no system of reporting cancers by type in the country. The figures of all these diseases could be significantly higher had the cases with the out-patient department (OPD) from the national referral hospital in Thimphu been included. The annual bulletin states that the urban population in the country had shot up from 16 percent in 2000 to 31 percent in 2005, and that TVs have entered into rural settings. Thus a large section of the Bhutanese population, it said, was exposed to many of the unhealthy lifestyles and behaviours of the developed world, propagated mainly through this medium. Such behavioural changes would only result in the emergence of non-communicable diseases, in addition to the already flourishing communicable diseases, some of which the country is still grappling with today, states the report. By Samten Wangchuk samme@kuensel.com.bt

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