With a death rate of 142 per lakh people, India tops the world table of mortality from lung diseases. Respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB) are emerging as major health problems in the country. According to studies, pulmonary fibrosis comprises 15 per cent of the pulmonary physician’s practice. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has estimated the incidence of COPD as 5 per cent in Indian men.
Unlike in previous years, pulmonary diseases are no longer restricted to the elderly, but are now being detected in younger age groups. A survey by the International Institute of Population Studies conducted in Dharavi in Mumbai found that almost 90 per cent of people living in slums die from respiratory or lung-related diseases.
There is anecdotal information that supports these findings. Recently, on World Spirometry Day – a common test used to diagnose asthma and COPD and similar conditions – 115 traffic policiment took lung tests at a hospital in Mumbai. 45 per cent of them were detected with weak lungs, and another 20 per cent were in the early stages of lung malfunction, testimony to the risks from air pollution. Clearly, we need to address the serious health issue of lung diseases.
It will take committed effort from all of us – healthcare professionals, policy experts, health advisors and government – to combat lung diseases in our country. We will have act immediately: create much greater awareness, build institutional capacity and identify treatment options and create visible and tangible impact. In the human lung, there are millions of air foils like those on airplane wings, that facilitate flight. Let’s not lose them, and thus our ability to fly.
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