Imagine a world where each breath is a source of vitality and strength, where our lungs quietly conduct the orchestra of life. Unlike other parts of our body, our lungs have a reserve capacity that helps us in tough times, like when we are stressed or sick. This extra lung capacity is significant, but it tends to shrink as we age or if we have long-term lung problems.
Diseases Burden in India
According to the Global Burden of Diseases Report, India accounts for 15.69 percent of all chronic respiratory lung disease cases globally and 30.28 percent of all deaths. The report further chronicles the number of respiratory lung disease cases in India, particularly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, are 55.23 million and 35 million, respectively, with a national mortality rate of 69 percent of all deaths.
Though India replicates the global atmosphere in the surge of respiratory lung disease cases, according to a survey by medical journal Lung India, the most significant risk factor is tobacco use. In contrast, other factors such as air pollution, biomass fuel exposure, workplace hazards, and genetic and autoimmune conditions further add to the growing numbers.
Need for Partnership
Despite the overwhelming burden of chronic respiratory lung diseases in India, where lives, productivity and health are deteriorating at an alarming rate, the critical issue remains shrouded in a veil of low awareness. To address this concern, in 2017, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, along with the World Health Organisation Country Office, established guidelines for the prevention and control of common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India.
The government further set up Ayushmaan Bharat, a flagship program for Universal Health Coverage of all Indians through the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana designed to ‘leave no one behind’. The program adopts a continuum-of-care approach to promote the screening, prevention, and management of NCDs by creating 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres to provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services to the public.
While the government continues to advance the program, the steady rise of the disease has strained the public health system and thus creating an urgent need for partnership with healthcare companies to build capacities and offer holistic support to address the burning issue.
Framework for Healthy Lungs
While the challenging scenario continues to test public health, we can chart a path towards healthier lungs — an actionable framework consisting of four fundamental pillars: Prevention, Early Detection, Treatment Adherence and Disease Awareness.
Though proactive prevention involves minimising exposure to risk factors, advocating vaccinations, and promoting healthier lifestyle choices is imperative for prevention. Regular screenings can facilitate early detection in identifying conditions when they are treatable and can make a difference.
Enabling early detection through patient support programs such as HealThy Lungs, Inspire Clinic and Spirometry Camps boosts patient adherence to medication while leveraging technology to improve adherence to therapy can affect clinical outcomes, enhancing the quality of life of those affected. Disease awareness also empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their condition, health, and life, enabling prevention, diagnosis, and adherence.
Patient Empowerment and Care
As awareness around respiratory health gains momentum, the demand for personalised patient care surges. This customised treatment is made possible by remarkable strides in genomic research, enabling tailored treatments and more effective management of lung diseases.
Concurrently, innovations in inhalation therapies, such as breath-actuated nebulisers and OPEP (Oscillating Positive Expiratory Pressure) devices, have taken centre stage, providing a glimmer of hope for individuals with respiratory lung conditions. These technologically driven devices elevate patient care, focusing on monitoring the condition and adhering to therapy for improved outcomes.
Many healthcare organisations are also leveraging technology to provide support through patient-centric programs that raise awareness about lung health and diseases and educate patients on treatment plans and proper usage of devices.
One such digital program is the Joint Airway Initiative (JAI), India’s 1st digital asthma educator that provides comprehensive inhalation techniques to guide asthma patients and enables effective condition management. JAI becomes a companion in every patient’s journey to ensure strict adherence to treatment and technique. Programs and initiatives like these empower patients to manage their conditions more effectively.
As we mark World Lung Day, let us prioritise lung health through a collective effort that combines cutting-edge innovations, advanced therapies, and digital therapeutics to prevent and treat respiratory diseases for all. With a future that promises a significant decline in the disease burden in India and a quest for healthy lungs, let us pledge not to leave anyone behind. Whether through supporting organisations, making healthier lifestyle choices, or simply spreading awareness, each of us can play a part in this vital journey towards healthier lungs and a brighter future.
This article was first published in the CNBC TV18 on 25th September 2023