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NEW DELHI: The Union health ministry is set to roll out a massive free door-to-door screening programme next month for the early detection of cancer, heart disorders and diabetes, which account for over 35% of all deaths in India.
The programme is likely to be flagged off by PM Modi on February 4, which is World Cancer Day. Under the initiative, the government aims at testing over one-third of the population in a year — a scale that has not been attempted before.
"We are aiming to cover 200 districts across the country by 2018. At a later stage, we will also add testing for asthma under the Programme," an official told TOI.
The programme is among the preventive-care measures planned by the health ministry, and is targeted at people in the age group of 30-69 years, who constitute almost 37% of the total population. This population is also highly vulnerable to noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer and diabetes that are responsible for 55% of the premature mortality in the same age group.
Estimates show the prevalence of non-communicable diseases is fast growing in India. Not just that, diseases like cancer and heart disorders are also causing significant mortality, whereas diabetes is leading to a huge socio-economic burden. While over 26% of all deaths in India are from heart diseases, 7% are from cancer. In 2015, over 690 lakh cases of diabetes were reported in India. The annual
expenditure on account of diabetes treatment in India is pegged at Rs 1.5 lakh crore, 4.7 times the Centre's allocation of Rs 32,000 crore for health. This cost is projected to rise by 20-30% every year. The door-to-door screening programme will help ramp up preventive care, and hence has the potential to considerably reduce the healthcare bill. Primary prevention of NCDs is globally seen as a promising strategy for tackling the burden.
The programme, which will be funded under the flagship national health mission, will begin with training ANMs (auxiliary nurse midwives), ASHAs (accredited social health activists) and staff nurses in 100 districts to conduct tests for cancer, hypertension and diabetes. Apart from training, the Centre will also provide tools and testing kits to the health workers, besides setting up screening centres with the required infrastructure at district levels. The ASHAs and ANMs will be given equipment that can be carried to doorsteps, or set up at health camps for collecting samples. The government has earmarked around Rs 250 crore for the programme and is ready to allocate more to ramp it up, the official said. The Centre has already issued guidelines to states for the implementation of the programme.
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