At the recently concluded Golden Jubilee Celebration of Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine Conference (IAPSMCON) 2023, doctors and top public health experts sounded a clarion call for joint and accelerated action to counter the dangers of uncontrolled hypertension. Calling it the topmost risk factor for sudden and premature deaths if left untreated, medical fraternity and senior government officials and civil society pledged to develop and deliver on an action plan.
The three-day annual conference was organized by All India Institute of Medicine (AIIMS), Bibinagar, in collaboration with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN). Non-communicable diseases and its various risk factors emerged as a primary concern in seminars and panel discussions at the conference.
With ‘Introspection And Innovation In Public Health; One Health One Planet’, as its theme, the 50th Year of IAPSM, focussed on building a convergent action plan for a future ready public health strategy. A multi-sectoral discussion on hypertension was given a special spotlight since 1 in 4 Indians suffer from this condition and a large percentage remain unaware and untreated.
At a high-level plenary discussion titled: Multisectoral involvement for care and control of hypertension in India, representatives from various sectors talked about the need to urgently rein in the silent epidemic of raised blood pressure.
Dr Sudarshan Mandal, Deputy Director General (NPCDCS), Dte GHS, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said, “The National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) has been prioritizing treatment of chronic conditions. We are strengthening infrastructure throughout the country, bringing treatment close to the people, making hypertension treatment available for all those who need it and also ensuring treatment adherence. This includes regular medication and monitoring of BP levels. The India Hypertension Control Initiative (IHCI) is one of our action plans to make that happen.”
Notorious for being asymptomatic, hypertension can remain undetected unless regularly screened. Although easy and affordable to treat, treatment adherence of this condition is very poor. According to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5, only about 7 per cent women and 6 per cent men who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure are on regular medication.
According to Dr Pradeep Aggarwal, Additional Professor, Department. of Community & Family Medicine, AIIMS Rishikesh, “Since over 50 crore Indians rely on primary health care for their treatment, public health facilities must shoulder the main responsibility of ensuring that people’s BP is under control. Greater awareness is necessary and all stakeholders must join to battle this dangerous underlying condition.”
If left untreated hypertension can result in sudden stroke, cause heart attack and chronic kidney diseases. Dr Manohar Agnani, who recently retired as Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, emphasised the productivity loss associated with lack of hypertension control. “Simply by achieving BP control in the population, the Govt of India can reduce its costs towards NCD management. Since untreated BP increases chances of premature death and disability, it can leave people at risk of financial catastrophe. To convey a sense of urgency to all actors, we must also calculate the economic import of hypertension control,” he said.
The Government of India has committed to 25% relative reduction in hypertension prevalence by 2025. Achieving this goal will require effectively treating at least 15 crore people by 2024.
Underscoring the importance of people’s voices, Dr Ratna Devi, Director, Patient Academy for Innovation and Research (PAIR) said, “Managing chronic conditions such as hypertension require attention to behavioural shifts as well as social norms. We need to consider voices of those living with the condition. Patients need to be at the centre of the systems we build to take care of them.”
The multi-stakeholder discussion was held as part of a cardiovascular health initiative by AIIMS Rishikesh called “Project Healthy Food for All”.
ABOUT AIIMS, Rishikesh
AIIMS Rishikesh is an institute of national importance established in 2012. AIIMS, Rishikesh is an institute which strives to provide excellent health policy guidance, tertiary patient care, world class medical education and ground-breaking research. The Institute aims to be a global medical pioneer, to serve as effective deliverers of medical care in society. The Institute has been part of multiple national health and nutrition policy processes and projects.