Is the Growing Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in India Preventable?

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Interdisciplinary Centers, Units and Projects::Penn Population Studies Centers::Population Center Working Papers (PSC/PARC)
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Medicine and Health Sciences
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Non-Communicalble Disease
heart disease
old age
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Kulkarni, Vani S.
Unnikrishnan, Vidhya

Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) morbidity and mortality as shares of total morbidity and mortality have risen steadily in India and projected to surge rapidly. In 1990, NCDs accounted for 40% of all Indian mortality and are now projected to account for three quarters of all deaths by 2030. Currently, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory illness, and diabetes are the leading causes of death in India, accounting for almost 50% of all deaths. Underlying these rising shares are growing risks that are common to several NCDs. NCDs are chronic in nature and take a long time to develop. They are linked to aging and affluence and have replaced infectious diseases and malnutrition as the dominant causes of ill health and death in much of the world including India. Some NCDs cause others and create clusters of co-morbid conditions (e.g., diabetes can lead to kidney failure and blindness). Old-age morbidity is a rapidly worsening curse in India. The swift descent of the elderly in India (60 years +) into non-communicable diseases (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes) could have disastrous consequences in terms of impoverishment of families, excess mortality, lowering of investment and deceleration of economic growth. Indeed, the government must deal simultaneously with the rising fiscal burden of NCDs and substantial burden of infectious diseases. The present study seeks to answer three questions: Why has the prevalence of two NCDs, diabetes and heart diseases risen in recent years? Given the surge in these diseases, whether social protection policies and restructuring of medical services can mitigate such surges in the near future? A related but equally important concern is whether lifestyle and dietary changes could be induced to further prevent the rising burden of these NCDs. Our analysis is based on the only all-India panel survey-India Human Development survey that covers 2005 and 2012. This survey was conducted jointly by University of Maryland and National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi. A robust econometric methodology-specifically, 2SLS- is used to address the endogeneity of key explanatory variables. The results here stress the need to make sure that pension and healthcare reforms are accompanied by greater awareness, expansion of old age pensions and public hospitals, and effective regulation of both public and private hospitals.

Key words: NCDs, Diabetes, Heart diseases, Old age and other pensions, Hospitals, India

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Population Center Working Paper (PSC/PARC), 2024-112
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Gaiha, Raghav, Vidhya Unnikrishnan and Vani S. Kulkarni. 2024. “Is the Growing Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in India Preventable?” University of Pennsylvania Population Center Working Paper (PSC/PARC).