Outdoor pollution behind 6% of disease burden

A traffic policeman wearing an anti-pollution mask mans traffic amid smog and air pollution in New Delhi on Monday. | PTI

This has huge implications for policymakers because it means that one health policy and uniform health schemes may not be workable for all the states.

According to the report, titled "India State-level Disease Burden" and released by Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu here, indoor air pollution also caused five per cent of the disease burden a year ago.

Though life expectancy at birth has improved at the national level, inequalities between states continue - ranging from 66.8 years in Uttar Pradesh to 78.7 years in Kerala for females, and 63.6 years in Assam to 73.8 years in Kerala for males in 2016.

The report provides the first comprehensive set of findings for the distribution of diseases and risk factors across every state of India from 1990 to 2016, utilizing all available data and in close engagement with many leading health scientists of India. For example, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana experienced a higher health burden from air pollution compared to states like Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Goa and others.

The medical experts led by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) who conducted the study found some causes of death and disability such as diarrhea and other communicable diseases have declined but others, especially heart disease - which is closely linked to air pollution and smoking - has increased significantly in the country, CSE researchers said reacting to the study.

"Many Indian states are bigger than most countries in the world". He said, this report, along with the technical scientific paper and the open-access visualization tool that are also released today, together provide systematic insights in to the health status of each state and the health inequalities between the states of India.

In 2016, three of the five leading individual causes of the disease burden in India were NCDs-ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke.

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Meanwhile, unsafe water and sanitation, which was the second-leading risk responsible for disease burden in 1990, dropped to the seventh position in 2016.

Contribution of major disease groups to total disease burden in India, 1990 and 2016.

This risk factor encompasses both outdoor air pollution from a variety of sources as well as household air pollution that mainly results from burning solid fuels for cooking and heat.

While the disease burden due to child and maternal malnutrition has dropped in India substantially since 1990, this is still the single largest risk factor responsible for 15% of the total disease burden in India in 2016.

The report said Kerala had the lowest burden of malnutrition among the Indian states, but even that was 2.7 times higher per person than in China. "This report will play a major role taking more specific action to improve the health and lives of the poor with special focus on the states that are relatively less developed". He suggested that generation of such comprehensive estimates for each district.

"The contribution of NCDs to health loss, fuelled by unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, blood sugar and overweight, has doubled in India over the past two decades".

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