Rise in non-communicable diseases among children in India is a huge concern
The rate of incidence of NCDs has more than doubled among children between 5 – 17 years of age over the past decade, an age group where there should ‘technically and historically’ not be a growing impact of lifestyle diseases,” data shared by Apollo Hospitals has found.
Dr Sathya Sriram, CEO – Preventive Health, Apollo, said “India is already grappling with a huge NCD burden, estimated at $4.8 trillion in lost economic output by 2030. India’s young population is its biggest advantage, but only when they are healthy. By not addressing NCDs at an early age, we are potentially looking at a generation that will not be at their productive best, subsequently increasing the healthcare burden on the nation. Early detection and intervention in diseases like diabetes and hypertension are critical. Timely measures, including lifestyle modifications such as increased physical activity and improved nutrition, can mitigate long-term health impacts. Moreover, early identification of learning challenges and high-risk behaviors in children is essential, enabling appropriate support and intervention. Such proactive approaches can substantially reduce the incidence of NCDs in adults, thereby lessening the overall health and economic impact on India.”
Analyzing nearly 10,000 screenings across walk-ins and campus outreach, the data reveals that: An alarming increase in everything from pre-diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease and irregular lipid levels.
Early onset of Diabetes: Prediabetes was observed in 17% of those screened, projecting a potentially early onset of diabetes as they step into adulthood.
Incidence of diabetes has also doubled in these ages over the past 5 years, indicated by the data observed at campus checks by Apollo SHINE Foundation – from 1.37% in 2018 to 3.68% in 2023 across a nearly similar sample size, as indicated by HbA1C levels.
Rise of childhood obesity: Childhood obesity has seen an exponential rise and forms a major risk factor for the onset of other NCDs. Nearly 19% of those screened were either overweight or obese, 3X more than what was observed a few years ago.
Hypertension, the new entrant: Hypertension is also among the NCDs that is now being diagnosed in as young as 7-year-olds. Apollo data indicates its detection in roughly 6% of those screened. A majority of this is concentrated in those aged between 14 – 17 years of age, a major outcome of rising academic pressure alongside peer and social anxieties.
Many non-communicable diseases have their origins in childhood. Physical inactivity, unhealthy diets, exposure to alcohol and tobacco, academic pressure, social anxieties, and unhealthy or unsafe environments are important risk factors. Genetic predisposition is also a major factor. In India, till about the age of 12 to 14 years, children come under the pediatric purview, with visits to the pediatrician restricted to only when a child falls sick. Once the child reaches 18, they are classified as an adult. So, as a result, adolescents in the age group of 14-18 are often overlooked in pediatric and adult healthcare classifications – This ‘rain-shadow zone’ demographic experiences various health problems that often go undiagnosed.
Pediatric screenings often prioritize developmental disorders and infectious diseases, leaving lifestyle factors and NCDs relatively overlooked. Addressing lifestyle diseases in children requires a significant awareness amongst parents and schools to ensure early intervention and creating supportive environments for healthy living. Apollo has adopted a personalized health check program – ProHealth – to focus on the health milestones of children and adolescents, along with our pediatricians.
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