Local artistes have been roped in for staging plays in villages

Take less sugar. Reduce salt and oil. Exercise every day. You can find these health tips in the media, hospital corridors, and public health campaigns, with additional warning of consequences such as diabetes and heart disease. Add a little drumroll and fanfare, and these key messages may perhaps catch more eyeballs, hopes a new initiative kicked off by the State government on Tuesday.

Local artistes have been roped in to talk about how to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases such as cancers and cardiovascular diseases, through street plays and cultural performances staged in villages.

Folk arts and cultural campaigns had been widely used to take HIV/AIDS prevention to rural pockets. Now, the strategy effectively adopted by TANSACS had been taken up by the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project to take information pertaining to non-communicable diseases to people in rural parts. The spotlight had shifted to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory disorders, and cancers of the breast and cervix, because of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases worldwide and particularly in India.

Not urban phenomenon

According to a statement issued by the TNHSP, non-communicable diseases are responsible for 53 per cent of all deaths in India. These diseases are often clubbed as lifestyle disorders, believed to affect only urban and economically progressive sections of society. But two pilot programmes of the TNHSP in the recent past, challenge this myth. The programmes involved screening for cardiovascular disease in Sivaganga and Virudhunagar and screening for cervical cancer in Thanjavur and Theni.

The study revealed that 32 per cent of people living in towns and 30.9 per cent living in rural areas had hypertension. While 17.2 per cent of urban dwellers were affected with diabetes, 12.2 per cent from rural parts had the disorder. Changing dietary patterns and lifestyle, consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages, genetic disposition, and ageing were said to contribute to the trend.

Subsequent to the pilot programmes in 2011, government hospitals in Tiruchi introduced screening for hypertension and diabetes mellitus in men and women aged above 30 and screening for cervical and breast cancer for women aged above 30.

The cultural campaign would reiterate the need to prevent and treat these diseases at 75 public places in the district before October 23. The importance of preferring traditional food grains such as kambu, ragi, and corn over polished rice, cool drinks, and junk food would be stressed.

The campaign was kicked off by Collector Jayashree Muralidharan and Mayor A. Jaya on Tuesday near Central Bus Stand. Top health and local administration officials extended their support to the campaign.