Non-communicable disease surveillance sorely lacking in India

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Surveillance of non-communicable risk factors in India must be greatly improved. ©iStock
Surveillance of non-communicable risk factors in India must be greatly improved. ©iStock

Related tags Epidemiology

A standardised surveillance system of non-communicable disease risk factors is necessary in India, where the incidence of such conditions is growing swiftly.

Out of a population of approximately 1.3 billion, 5.87 million or 60% of all deaths in India are caused by non-communicable diseases.

Based on this information, the country’s National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research conducted a systematic review of 41 papers and survey reports on major non-communicable diseases among both rural and urban populations.

National data on the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disease, cancer and diabetes were assessed in order to ascertain their trends in India.

It was revealed that between 2005 and 2016, there was a significant increase in overweight and obese individuals among those aged 15 to 49, and a decrease in tobacco usage in that period among the same demographic.

Flawed surveillance

However, the review stated that “most surveys, national or sub-national, do not report data pertaining to every non-communicable disease risk factor”​. Furthermore, geographical coverage of non-communicable disease risk factors in India was lopsided and incomplete, with sufficient information available for only certain states.

Other flaws in India’s surveillance of non-communicable disease risk factors included inconsistencies in periodic surveys, and a lack of a standardised survey methodology.

The review said that “many surveys measured the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended core indicators incompletely, or (they) were missed because of the use of different indicator definitions”​, and suggested a standardised approach for collecting data on non-communicable disease risk factors.

Recommendations for the future

India’s severely delayed response to non-communicable disease risk factors, as well as its sporadic and incomplete information in this aspect, impedes progress in the understanding and treatment of such diseases.

The review recommended that standard WHO questions on risk factors be incorporated into surveys on non-communicable diseases “in order to increase information comprehensiveness”​. It also suggested that India develop a time- and cost-effective surveillance system for non-communicable disease risk factors.

The review concluded that at present, “a relative lack of adequate risk factor data in its entirety, inadequate coverage (geographically and demographically), and (the) absence of a standardised methodology are the major deficiencies which need to be overcome for superior and more effective non-communicable disease control in the country, which in turn would facilitate (the) reduction of the overall non-communicable disease burden by 2025”​.


Source: Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention

“Non Communicable Disease Risk Factors and their Trends in India”

Authors: Suzanne Nethan, Dhirendra Sinha, Ravi Mehrotra

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