Lone fight at Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Disease Control in Moscow

India achieved a major success on the global platform by pushing for inclusion of mental health in the list of non-communicable diseases. India fought alone to get mental disorders included in the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) list at the just-concluded first Ministerial Conference on Healthy Lifestyles and Non-communicable Disease Control in Moscow.

Mental health as a NCD was adopted in the Moscow Declaration on April 29 which reads: “Other NCDs such as mental disorders also significantly contribute to the global disease burden.” Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad led the Indian delegation to Moscow where the World Health Organisation organised the two-day conference on April 28 and 29.

The principal non-communicable diseases are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic respiratory diseases, which are the leading causes of preventable morbidity and disability, and currently cause over 60 per cent of global deaths, 80 per cent of which occur in developing countries. By 2030, the NCDs are estimated to contribute to 75 per cent of global deaths.

Pleading for its case, India argued that “like all non-communicable diseases, mental disorders required long term treatment and affected the quality of life.”

Global agenda

Mental disorders will now form part of the global agenda and get attention. It will also be brought up at the World Health Assembly in Geneva later this month, and at the United Nations Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases to be held in September.

India is also working towards framing a mental health policy based on internationally-accepted guidelines. It will also keep in mind the specific context of mental illness in the country and take into account the draft Mental Health Care Bill, 2010.

A 12-member policy group entrusted to frame the National Mental Health Care Policy and Plan will prepare a situational analysis of the need for mental health care in the country, taking into account the issues of human resources, essential drug procurement and distribution, advocacy, prevention, and rehabilitation of mental health patients.

To be represented by experts in the mental health sector — non-governmental organisations, and legal experts — the policy group will recommend changes to the proposed draft Mental Health Care Bill, if necessary, to support the National Mental Health Care Policy and Plan.

The evidence-based policy will state the guiding values, principles and objectives of such a policy and identify priority areas for action while the plan will be drafted keeping in mind the National and District Mental Health Programmes, and will recommend specific strategies and activities for implementation in priority areas of action as identified in the National Mental Heal Care Policy.