TS: Experts call for primary healthcare to tackle hypertension

Hyderabad: With Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) emerging as a key area of concern, there is an urgent need to step up efforts to effectively tackle serious health problems caused by hypertension in states like Telangana to safeguard the physical and financial wellbeing of the people,  said top medical practitioners and policymakers at a media dialogue here today.

Emphasising the need to adopt a focussed and coordinated approach in addressing the issue at a ‘Media Dialogue on Hypertension Management and Elimination of Trans Fatty Acids in Telangana’ organised by Delhi-based not-for-profit organisation Consumer Voice here, they said the media has a vital role in this process since creation of awareness is crucial in early detection and management of NCDs, especially heart diseases.

Delivering the keynote address at the event, Smt A Shanti Kumari IAS, Principal Secretary (Health & Family Welfare) and Food Safety Commissioner, Telangana, said providing total medical care is an area of the prime focus of the Telangana Government and management of hypertension is a key component in that.

Shanti Kumari, also Principal Secretary (Health, Family Welfare), said the three-pronged approach, comprising early screening through outreach followed by a dispensation of secondary and tertiary medical care, adopted by the State Government has proved effective in managing hypertension.

Medicines are made available at all levels of healthcare centres across the state since regular review and dispensation of medicines are important. As part of this, one month’s medicines are provided to patients so that they remain on treatment.

“Healthcare has always been at the centre of the Government of Telangana. We are never shy to take good models from other parts of the country also,” she added.

Speaking on Elimination of Trans Fatty Acids in Telangana, Dr K Shankar, Director, Food Safety, said strict implementation of regulations of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) can sharply reduce heart diseases caused by TFAs in foods.

Besides enforcement of rules, the state has also taken up a programme to educate street food vendors on how to make food items made and sold by them low on fat by switching to healthy substitutes already available. The packaged food industry should also take a pledge to reduce trans fat content in their products, Dr Shankar noted.

The burden cast on the society by NCDs is so huge that it consumes a significant portion of the family budget, said Dr Gangadhar Taduri, Professor & Head, Department of Nephrology, NIMS Hyderabad and Adviser to Minister of Health, Telangana.

Making a presentation on “NCDs : A Major Health Challenge in Telangana”, Dr Taduri said since health problems linked to hypertension and diabetes are increasing in the state, the healthcare delivery system needs to be improved to address the emerging challenges.

Universal health coverage, which includes services coverage and cost coverage, is mandatory in addressing the issue. In the case of Telangana, there are certain specific measures to be taken such as providing better equipment to laboratories and improving logistics of the public healthcare system.

It is also important to adopt universal goals like sharply reducing consumption of tobacco and alcohol, reduction in physical inactivity and improving the availability of medicines. “We need to give proper medicines in proper time, which is crucial in managing NCDs, especially heart diseases and diabetes”, he said.

Setting the agenda for the dialogue, Mr Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer Voice, said the challenges posed by hypertension-related health issues, need to be tackled in all seriousness as the cost it cast on society could be huge if allowed to slip out of control.

Speaking on the “Trans Fatty Acids in Food: A major factor for cardiovascular diseases, Dr Eram S Rao, Associate Professor & HOD, Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences, Delhi, said alternative fats like fully hydrogenated fats and interesterified fats are already available as viable options which are cost-effective and do not alter the taste or appearance of food.

Dr K Sarat Chandra, Sr Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Virinchi Hospitals, said avoiding transfats in food is important as it can increase the LDL cholesterol and decrease the HDL cholesterol. Educating policymakers, children, mothers and the public, besides creating awareness through media will help to tackle the issue.

Dr Kamala Kirshnaswamy, former director, National Institute of Nutrition, emphasised the need to reduce the salt content in food and added that flavours other than salt can be used to enhance the taste of food.

Dr (Col) M Sitaram, Sr Consultant, Cardiology, Apollo Hospitals, speaking on ‘Rising Burden of hypertension in Telangana, outlined strategies for hypertension control in the state. He suggested a three-pronged approach of educating school children, approaching the filmdom to prevent the glorification of smoking and drinking and opening of economic healthy food outlets to prevent the spread of fast food options in addressing the issue. “I hope that the Bandi food in Hyderabad is free from transfats”, he added.

The technical presentations were followed by an interaction on “Comprehensive Primary Healthcare for Hypertension Management “, in which Dr Gangadhar Taduri and Dr Hari Thalappalli, CEO, CallHealth, participated.

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