KARACHI: There is neither any vaccine nor any kind of antibiotics available for the treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension, so the only option available against these ailments is immediate lifestyle modification, leading health experts suggested on Sunday.
“A lot more focus is being given by the authorities and media to the communicable diseases, which can be prevented with the help of vaccines and treated through antibiotics and anti-viral drugs but the Non-Communicable Diseases are mostly symptom-less, lifelong, especially heart disease, which has become a social problem and can’t be managed inside hospitals anymore,” renowned public health expert and Vice Chancellor, Health Services Academy (HSA) Dr Shahzad Ali told a health conference in Rawalpindi.
He was addressing the concluding session of two-day Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) International Conference on Coronary Artery Diseases, which concluded at Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) Rawalpindi. Leading cardiologists, diabetologists, nutritionists and public health experts presented their papers the on prevention of cardiovascular diseases in Pakistan.
Delivering his talk on “Public Health Challenges of Heart Diseases in Pakistan,” Prof. Shahzad Ali Khan said some 22 years ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) revised the definition of health from “absence of disease” to “physical, mental and social well-being; not merely absence of disease”, but deplored that the authorities and experts in Pakistan are following diseases to gain health which is not the solution.
“Heart disease is not just a clinical problem which we can manage inside hospitals. It is a social problem but we in Pakistan lack domestic research and we don’t have local evidence on heart disease,” Dr Khan said, adding that there is a need to promote local evidence and local models to find local solutions to our problems.
Explaining the difference between management of infectious and non-infectious diseases of NCDs, he said many infections have vaccines and can be prevented by a jab, while others can be treated with antibiotics and anti-viral drugs, duration of illness in case of infectious diseases is temporary and one stays away from work for a short period.
“Similarly, cost of treatment in case of infectious diseases is one time and in case of NCDs all of this is opposite. There are no vaccines, no antibiotics and duration of treatment is lifelong. Once you get an NCD, you will have it for life. It will take you to grave. As NCDs need lifelong care and treatment, the costs are enormous,” he informed while deploring that the people in Pakistan are not willing to eat well, walk more and think positive.
“As public health experts, we can’t just promote negative warnings of don’t do this and don’t do that. People hate those who banish them or bar them from joys of life. They don’t like people asking them “not to do something,” he said, adding that finding local solutions are needed to control the prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and other lifestyle diseases.
Another health expert, Prof. K.H Mutaba Quadri, said one in four middle-aged adults in Pakistan is suffering from the Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and the risks are uniformly high in the young and in women.
Concerted efforts are needed to prevent the epidemic of cardiovascular disease in Pakistan by focusing on hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and dyslipidemia or high cholesterol levels, he added.
He suggested that local research endeavors should be patient-centered, relevant, cost effective and targeted to improving general and cardiac health outcomes, adding that the research needs to be incentivised through central grants, research and development funds and endowments.
“Pakistani origin clinical and translational researchers within academic faculties in US, UK, Australia, NZ and the Middle East can serve as research advisors/mentors and collaborators in the not too distant future,” he added.
Dr Brig. Azmat Hayat said the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 percent of all deaths globally, adding that each year, more than 15 million people die of a NCD between the ages of 30 and 69 years; 85 percent of these “premature” deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries like Pakistan.
He maintained that cardiovascular diseases account for most NCD deaths, or 17.9 million people annually, followed by cancers (9.3 million), respiratory diseases (4.1 million), and diabetes (1.5 million).
“In Pakistan, cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of mortality, which is 48 percent, followed by cancers 21 percent, chronic respiratory diseases 12 percent and diabetes 3.5 percent,” he said, adding that the probability of dying between ages 30 and 70 years from the four main NCDs is 21 percent in Pakistan.
Several other experts, including Director Baqai Institute of Diabetology and Endocrinology (BIDE) Karachi Prof. Abdul Basit, Munawar Hussain Consultant Food Policy Program, Dr. Khalid Farooq Danish, Dr. Aisha Mohyuddin, Dr. Baseer Achakzai from Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, vice chancellors of medical varsities, principals of medical colleges and others also spoke.
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