This year’s World Health Day message is ‘Control Your Blood Pressure’. The constitution of the World Health Organization was established on April 7, 1948. To commemorate this, every year the organization invites the world’s attention to a particular health topic. This time was subject was blood pressure. With regard to Kerala, this topic is of utmost relevance.
The official records Kerala has on this are from studies done in Varkala area under the supervision of Dr C R Soman; studies done by research centres like the Achutha Menon Centre in Thiruvananthapuram; thesis works done by medical colleges. The studies indicate that out the state’s total population, 25 percent (two out of one people above the age of 35 years) is affected by this condition. This is one of the highest numbers in the world. Even 10 to 15 percent of our high school and higher secondary school students have more blood pressure than is normal in their age. Diabetes, which is another disease that affects the blood vessels, is also in higher number in Kerala. One out of three people aged above the age of 35 years is slave to this disease.
Diabetes and blood pressure are the main causes in accentuating two of the leading killer diseases in Kerala and the world, heart attack and paralysis. Around 40 percent of deaths reported in Kerala are due to these two conditions. Meanwhile, the money that patients in Kerala and their families spend on the treatment of lifestyle diseases is several times more than the fund the state government utilizes for the entire health sector, says a study from the Achutha Menon Centre. A recent survey done by the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (Kerala Science Literature Movement) reveals that Malayalees use two-thirds of their treatment expenses for follow up treatment of such ailments.
Unhealthy food habits, lack of exercise, excessive use of tobacco and alcohol as well as various illnesses due to sedentary lifestyle etc pave way for these diseases. It has only been year since a project on non-communicable diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes have kicked off in the state. Even though it is known as Lifestyle Disease Control Project, it is mainly aimed at high blood pressure and diabetes treatment.
The project assists in free diagnosis of these two ailments at family welfare units that come under the state’s primary health centres. Necessary medications will then be prescribed which will be distributed through health centres. These services are provided free of cost. Once a week special clinics deliver service at primary health centres and family welfare units. This project is a relief to thousands of people suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes. However this project is unfit to control the spread of these ailments.
Though late, a comprehensive health plan to control high blood pressure and diabetes that in turn cause heart attack and paralysis, is the need of the hour. However there are some philosophies to be kept in mind when planning such a programme. The most important among this prevention is more important than cure. By providing free treatment to those people living in conditions where treatment is not available, the lion share of the activities must concentrate on public awareness, develop a healthy social environment, discourage unhealthy food habits and encourage healthy habits.
Through public awareness-habit awareness activities or even with the assistance of the law, the use of oil, salt, sugar and raising flour in our kitchens must be limited. Besides fried food, bakery food items, soft drinks etc must be avoided.