India’s embrace of both Eastern and Western culture and lifestyle has helped propel it as an Asian epicenter of unprecedented prosperity. Unfortunately, the prevalence of obesity and diabetes is rising at an unprecedented pace as well. In 2011, India had more than 62 Million people with type 2 diabetes and according to the International Diabetes Federations (IDF) will increase to more 100 Million diabetics by 2030. The nationwide incidence now tops 9% and is as high as 20% in the more prosperous cities in the south of India.
It is not surprising with the adoption of lifestyle behaviors of developed counties such as overeating and lack of physical exercise that obesity and diabetes in on the rise. It is particularly alarming, however, that there is a trend for diabetes to strike Indians at much younger ages (e.g., adults in their 20’s) than in the West (e.g., 40-50’s) both in urban and rural settings. It is suspected that genetic factors may also contribute to early incidence and increased prevalence of type diabetes, often observed at average BMI’s that are lower than the Western countries.
The Indian government has taken notice and will invest roughly (US$11.6 billion) over the next 5 years in a national comprehensive plan for prevention and control of diabetes. The enormous scale and complexity of this public health crisis requires programs that tackle contributing factors that are more universal, i.e., common across country boundaries, as well as those more unique to the Indian market and culture. Education and awareness programs aimed at prevention must be started with the school age children and be sustained through the adult lifecycle. Failure to get treated because of ignorance, fear or stigma has profound economic impact to communities and families and affords needless human suffering.
Barriers to access for modern and efficient medical care must be addressed both in urban and rural settings where facilities and clinics are challenged by the enormous patient flows seeking diagnosis and treatment. The standard methods for monitoring blood glucose, e.g., HbA1c, used in other countries is notorious for creating false alarms among the Indian populace. Efforts at providing abundant and cost effective screening and monitoring tools will go a long way towards increasing diagnosis and treatment rates sufficiently early to thwart the onset and development of devastating complications such a eye disease, neuropathy, and chronic wounds and amputations. MEND intends to contribute towards a comprehensive solution in India given the unparalleled unmet need, our unique mix of products and programs aimed at promoting wellness, and the provision for both economic and social incentives by our unique nonprofit business model.