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Towards a healthy future

 Dominick Rodrigues |  2016-05-15 17:45:26.0  |  New Delhi

Towards  a healthy future

Health remains a primary concern in every segment of our society, seeking smooth functioning of human labour at all levels. Technology remains one of the prime movers in every facet of healthcare and medical setups ensuring growth, not just with the times, but even beyond as it indemnifies the reach of critical care to the needy. 

With India becoming the 'diabetes capital' of the world along with a number of other diseases superseding cancer, technology is playing a critical role beside human knowledge fortifying human health.

Breast cancer has come to be one of the diseases affecting not just women but men as well. A recent survey indicated that more than 50 per cent breast cancer patients are diagnosed too late. Lack of awareness and late diagnosis are significant contributors for the relatively late stage of the disease presentation and lesser chances of survival. 

Less than one per cent of women in India aged between 40 and 69 years participate in recommended breast screening mammograms once in every 24 months, as compared to that of China's 30 per cent and a major 65 per cent in the US.

 These figures are certainly daunting and make early detection even more imperative. Data from the National Cancer Registry Programme (NCRP) shows that females in their 30's and 40's are more prone to the disease, out of which nearly 50 per cent of the 1,44,937 women detected, 
succumbed to it.

Mammography is the most powerful process in order to detect cancer early. The tool, Mammograms can be used to detect the disease early and help it cure. According to a WHO report, Mammograms have been shown to reduce breast cancer mortality by 20 per cent in women helping with early detection. Modern day digital mammography machines and tomosynthesis pick cancer early, involving only fractional radiation.

The future is expected to see digital mammography becoming extremely common. Most oncologists agree with early scanning of breast screening mammography, starting at the age of 40 and earlier for patients with genetic and strong family history. 

"Any pain due to such tests is a myth. Flexible paddles decrease the discomfort and if there's any stimulation, it barely lasts for four seconds,” said Dr. Shilpa Lad from Canada. 

"These tests cost up to Rs 4,000 in India but have now been subsidised at Rs 700 so that there is no affordability issue. While the Canadian government has an effective healthcare and insurance system, technology still comes at a cost and needs government support (in India)", she added. Early detection is important in cancer and the treatment of lump removal along with radiation therapy gives any patient a 98 per cent survival rate. 

 Some breast cancers are aggressive and the following chemotherapy is debilitating, leaving 50 per cent patients to succumb to it in five years” added Dr. Lad, comparing the survival rate in Canada to India's.

 With technology becoming a major link in the healing process, related companies are bringing the best of their devices to India. Recently, Fujifilm India Pvt Ltd – a leader in the development and application of imaging and information innovations to healthcare technologies, collaborated with NM Medical Centre in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore in order to install Fujifilm's 50 Micron 3D Image Mammography machine – a state-of-the-art Amulet Innovality, making early detection of breast cancer a reality for women In India.

“While it is a known fact that late diagnosis results in slimming the chances of survival, it is therefore vital for healthcare providers to step up and provide women the best of early detection facilities in order to save their lives", Yasunobu Nishiyama, Managing Director, Fujifilm India, said. Amulet Innovality is one such product that has made early detection of breast cancer a reality for women all over the world. This machine has also been installed in mobile vans across New Delhi, conducting early screening tests for people in the surrounding villages.

Several features of Amulet Innovality offer women a safe and personalised screening experience, making it easier for them to come for breast examinations. This unique system caters to the unique biological makeup of every woman: The Intelligent Automatic Exposure Control (i-AEC) which defines the optimum X-ray dosage for each breast type, compared to conventional AEC where the sensor position is fixed. 

India has become a major hub for medical tourism in offering incredible cost savings. Some statistics showing even as high as 80 per cent in comparison to countries like the US and UK. With travel expenses taken into account, a comprehensive medical tourism package still provides savings in thousands of dollars for major procedures.

 The procedure costs in India and abroad could vary in Lumpectomy (USA: $15,000, and India $3,000), Total Mastectomy (USA: $22,000 and India $7,000), and Radical Mastectomy (USA: $20,000 and India: $6,000). India is  witnessing people flying in for breast cancer treatment and surgery from nations such as the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, a second study noted that there is a lack of knowledge among Indians on body weight and healthy diet. 85 per cent respondents claimed to consume a healthy diet but 37 per cent were considered obese based on their BMI. About 53 per cent of Indians were found to be unprepared in order to incur any unexpected medical expenses. 

The study, conducted by Cigna TTK Health Insurance and titled Cigna 360 degrees Well-being Score-India report, focused on monitoring and tracking  motivations, perceptions and attitudes as well as overall well-being among consumers across 11 countries. While being designed for an annual and holistic look at health and well-being in India with 10 cities and a sample size of 3,021 respondents.

India has been ranked highest in 'overall well-being in the region' with a score of 72.8, which is above the regional average of 65.3. This score comes in a league of overall well-being score results across 11 countries including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, New Zealand, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the UK. The findings from the United Nations and European Union suggested that happiness is U-shaped with the middle age, 40 plus, being the least happy as compared to the young and old.

 However, India seems to deviate from the usual 'happiness U-curve'. The 60 plus Indian generation seems to feel the strain wherein the overall well-being score drops to 35 per cent. Hong Kong and Taiwan scored the lowest for overall health and well-being. The study noted that 54 per cent respondents considered diabetes as their top health concern, followed by heart diseases. Around fifty per cent of the respondents claimed to exercise about 2.6 hours weekly.

The same study found out, that in the past year, majority of patients paid for their medical expenses on their own and would continue to do so in the future as well. During retirement, only about 25 per cent claim to get covered by private insurance companies for any medical expense to be incurred in the future.

Technology and gadgets have adversely impacted social skills. On an average, Indians spend almost 40 hours surfing the internet per week, representing about one-third of their waking hours spent in the process. Almost 31 per cent of the people said that they cannot live without their smart phones. This dimension reveals the initial signs of the 'sandwich generation' in India.

This dimension also reveals the importance of job stability in India. About 88 per cent of employees in the country are happy with their workplaces. However, employees in non-metro cities were found to be happier than those working in the metro cities. The study noted that for India to achieve the perfect “happiness U-curve,” there is a definite need for Indians to have a long-term financial plan in place to ensure complete cover of their future medical expenses. 

“We will leverage insights from the Cigna study to create customized health insurance solutions and services that are simple, easy-to-access, affordable and provide a sense of security for our customers,” said Sandeep Patel, managing director and CEO, Cigna TTK Health Insurance. 

"The future-thinking has highlighted people (especially those in their retirement phase) who are ready to spend Rs 33,000 annually. However, there is a growing concern that there were not enough insurance products available for diabetics, despite companies having launched targeted products in this regard. There are a lot of opportunities out there and this report would help in leveraging it", he added.

Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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