By K R Raghunath*
As COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc globally, people with underlying conditions and co-morbidities such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, lung, liver, or kidney disease have been found to be highly vulnerable to viral-related complications and even death.
A study by the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in mid-June examined data of over 17 lakh coronavirus cases and concluded that patients with underlying diseases were 12-times more likely to die of the virus as against healthy individuals. This trend has been corroborated by findings from across the world. The high incidence of non-communicable diseases is, therefore, the primary cause of mortality from the novel coronavirus. The pandemic has once again jolted the world towards the need for the prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCD).
Unfortunately, India is already sitting on an NCD bomb, with as many as 61 percent of all deaths in the country being attributable to lifestyle diseases. This number is only set to go up as urbanization increases and unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles become more common. It does not help that the Indian healthcare system is afflicted by inequitable access on account of geographic and economic disparities.
Integrated approach to healthcare
While modern medicine has over the past century helped significantly reduce the burden of communicable diseases and related deaths, it has not been enough to prevent non-communicable diseases. A preventive approach to healthcare requires more than just treatment-based outcomes. It entails the promotion of a healthy way of living to reduce the incidence of lifestyle diseases. Putting preventive care on the front foot can help improve health outcomes and reduce the burden on our healthcare system.
Alternative systems of medicine, particularly naturopathy, have a lot more to offer than modern medicine when it comes to prevention and disease management. Naturopathy is one such system that relies on the power of the body to heal itself. Naturopaths factor in physical, environmental, psychological, and social factors when treating a patient. The unique patient-centric approach focuses on devising customized, non-invasive and drugless treatments to treat chronic conditions. Research has found that their treatment modalities when combined with lifestyle changes and dietary modifications, help in managing chronic conditions, and vastly improve the quality of life. It also allows people with chronic diseases to reduce their intake or dosage of drugs whose long term consumption may have negative consequences on the body. In the long run, this translates to lower medical expenses and hospital visits. At the same time, the adoption of naturopathy and yoga in our daily lives serves to keep us healthy and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.
Yoga is another holistic system of physical and mental exercises that have been shown to control non-communicable diseases, from diabetes and arthritis to hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases. Many physicians recommend it to their patients as a part of disease management and prevention. It is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of the multi-sectoral approach to tackling NCDs. The more primary care providers and patients are empowered to educate themselves on yoga, the better we will be able to integrate it with the existing system and harness its promotive and preventive health benefits.
Following a healthy diet will give your immune system an edge. A healthy gut is the foundation of a robust immune system, and making modifications to your daily diet can help fight diseases. Broccoli, chickpeas, garlic, mushrooms, and yogurt have immunity-boosting properties. Yoga can help the immune system fight invading microbes by improving the circulation, and keep your stress levels under check. Standing asanas strengthen your back muscles, increase oxygenation, and improve lung capacity. Trikonasana strengthens the spine and abdominal muscles and opens up the chest and shoulders. Naukasana stimulates the digestive, circulatory, muscular, and hormonal systems. Sethu bandha Sarvangasana strengthens the back, stretches the neck, shoulders, and spine, and alleviates symptoms of anxiety and stress. Matsyasana relieves respiratory problems, stretches the neck and upper back muscles, stimulates the abdominal organs, and improves digestion.
Improving regulatory standards
The coronavirus pandemic has helped create greater consciousness and awareness about the need to junk unhealthy lifestyles. With people beginning to see the value of preventive care, wellness tourism is likely to witness a spurt and give the alternative medicine industry an unprecedented leg up. The government has to take cognizance of the fact. Encouraging investments in wellness schemes will surely help alleviate the severity of the crisis and lay the road to a healthier India.
Standardizing the practice of naturopathy will help restore its credibility as a scientific system of medicine. While the Indian government has set up regulatory bodies for homeopathy, ayurveda, unani, siddha yoga, and naturopathy remain unregulated, owing to the fact that they are drugless systems of medicine.
Although a parliamentary committee sought to include both naturopathy and yoga in the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill (NCISM) bill, there has been no development on that front yet. Making the bill more inclusive is the only way to ensure quality in healthcare delivery. It will lead to a more productive interface between conventional and alternative systems of medicine. It will also help improve treatment standards and enable greater global credibility for the country.
It is essential that the government constitutes a committee with industry experts to address the regulatory issues, and ease the process of integrating yoga and naturopathy in the NCISM bill. Allocating central funds to integrate complementary approaches into the primary care setting will help widen its reach and efficacy and help India promote a healthcare service delivery model that will be unique in its approach and act as an example for developing countries across the world.
The government must also undertake mass awareness campaigns to educate people on the benefits of naturopathy and yoga for disease prevention and chronic disease management.
*About the author: The writer is the Senior Chairman, Jindal Naturecure Institute, Bengaluru. The views expressed are personal
Source: This article was published by the South Asia Monitor