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Expert seeks change in focus on treatment of chronic diseases

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Novel ways: Shah Ebrahim, Chair, Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and E.S. Krishnamurthy, Secretary VHS at a meet organised by CII and VHS in Chennai.
Novel ways: Shah Ebrahim, Chair, Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and E.S. Krishnamurthy, Secretary VHS at a meet organised by CII and VHS in Chennai.

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Health interventions for chronic diseases should focus on cost-effective social interventions rather than technology fixes and magic bullets, Shah Ebrahim, Chair, Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said on Friday.

In his address on ‘Life and Longevity in the era of Chronic Diseases — The Road Ahead,’ to mark the Foundation Day of The Institute of Neurological Sciences -Voluntary Health Services, Dr. Ebrahim highlighted the increasing burden of chronic diseases, hypertension, diabetes and obesity in proportion with increasing life expectancy.

Dr. Ebrahim, who is also the Director of the South Asian Chronic Diseases Network, called for tackling upstream determinants of risk factors for coronary heart disease such as high blood pressure, smoking and sedentary lifestyles through simple measures such as salt regulations (choosing rock salt over processed salt) or measures to make a city pedestrian-friendly.

Sometimes, what is good for the economy may not be good for public health, he said. Mauritius had drastically cut down the cholesterol levels of its citizens by making soya oil a cheaper alternative to palm oil.

He also identified as an important social challenge the sustenance of family support for the elderly in times of increasing urbanisation, employment patterns (more proportion of working women) and Westernisation.

He advocated cost-effective interventions promoting family care, developing primary care infrastructure and initiating healthcare financing changes.

E.S. Krishnamoorthy, Honorary Secretary, VHS, said the issue now was not merely to extend longevity but add quality to lives. The institute of neurological sciences would launch a stroke rehabilitation clinic, a disability and rehabilitation project for indigent elderly and a training programme to generate care-givers in a few months.

C.V. Krishnaswami, chairman, department of diabetes, VHS, Krishnamoorthy Srinivas, Chairman Emeritus, TINS, and S.K. Rajan, former Dean, Stanley Medical College spoke.

Later, addressing a workshop on ‘Developing Early Social Intervention Models,’ hosted by VHS and the Confederation of Indian Industry, Dr. Ebrahim said social change could be engineered by individual initiative and structural or societal hurdles should not be an excuse for inaction.

Summing up the AIDS Prevention and Control Project initiatives on the HIV/AIDS front, Bimal Charles said the campaign had illustrated that behaviour modification could be brought about in high-risk categories such as commercial sex workers and truck drivers.

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