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Nudge teens to live healthy to stop epidemic of lifestyle diseases

Changing just four risk behaviours -- tobacco use, alcohol overuse, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets -- can stop or delay heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, which together account for 68% of global deaths

india Updated: Jul 21, 2016 15:01 IST
Improving diet helps to stay healthy(Shutterstock)

The four risk behaviours fuel almost all non-communicable diseases (NCDs) that kill an estimated 40 million people (NCDs) globally are tobacco use, alcohol overuse, physical inactivity and unhealthy diet, and adopting policies encouraging adolescents to lead healthy lives can prevent millions of deaths by 2050, says a new report.

NCDs, which include heart disease, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases, caused 68 percent of global deaths in 2012, taking 38 million lives.

“One in three young people live in either India or China, making Asia the home to 981 million young people ages 10 to 24, which is more than half of the world’s young population. Helping them make the right choices and adopt healthy behaviours can potentially prevent millions of premature deaths,” says Toshiko Kaneda, senior researcher and author of the Population Reference Bureau’s Addressing Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factors Among Young People: Asia’s Window of Opportunity to Curb a Growing Epidemic. The report was released on Thursday.

The report recommends school-, family- and community-based interventions for adolescents can lead to healthy behaviours such as healthy eating and exercising through life, just as they can prevent alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

Threat ahead

Asia, home to nearly half of the world’s population, accounts for 54 percent of global deaths from NCDs. “NCDs make up almost three-quarters of deaths in half of the 28 countries across East, Southeast, and South Asia, and in most of the rest, account for at least half of all deaths,” said co-author Reshma Naik, senior researcher at PRB, Washington.

Compared to high-income countries, NCDs in low- and middle-income countries claim lives at younger ages, when people ate at the peak of their economic productivity. “In Asia, the likelihood of dying prematurely between ages

30 and 70 is 22 percent in low- and middle-income countries where 95 percent of the region’s population lives, compared to 9 percent in developed countries,” said Naik.

NCD’s killed accounted for close to 60 per cent of all deaths in India in 2014, and about 40 percent of all hospital stays and 35 percent of outpatient visits.

“India is among global leaders in tobacco control and healthy diet and nutrition policies, which is not the case in many other Asian countries, but a lot more needs to be done to control alcohol abuse and increase physical activity, as all four are critically important,” said Kaneda.

First Published: Jul 21, 2016 15:01 IST