Here, in an article originally published on BRINK, Vice President of Employee Health & Benefits at Marsh India, Anupa Naik, discusses the soaring number of chronic disease cases impacting the corporate workforce in India and the urgent need to breed new preventive health programs.
The growth of India’s health care sector is being driven by a rise in both infectious and chronic diseases. Chronic diseases have overtaken infectious diseases in terms of morbidity and mortality data.
Some communicable diseases once thought to be under control, such as dengue fever, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, chikungunya, and pneumonia, have resurfaced and developed a resistance to more potent drugs. This troubling trend can be attributed in part to substandard housing, inadequate water, inadequate and inefficient sewage and waste management systems, a crumbling public health infrastructure, increased air travel and movement of populations across borders.
An increasing number of Indians are now adopting unhealthy lifestyle habits and consuming diets that are high in fat and sugar. The country is experiencing a rise in lifestyle-related diseases such as hypertension, cancer and diabetes. More so, due to demanding schedules, high stress levels and performance-linked perquisites in the private sector, nearly 85 percent of employees in the private sector are afflicted with lifestyle-related, chronic diseases. For example, India is the world’s second-largest consumer of tobacco, resulting in high rates of cancer, including the largest numbers of oral cancer in the world.
According to a survey of 1,250 corporate employees across 150 companies, 42.5 percent of respondents suffer from depression or general anxiety. Obesity is the second hard hitting disease that was observed in 23 percent of the respondents. Obesity alone can adversely impact occupational morbidity, mortality and injury risks that can further affect workplace absence, disability, productivity and health care costs. High blood pressure and diabetes are the third- and fourth-largest prevailing diseases with shares of 10 percent and 8 percent respectively. Spondylosis, heart disease, cervical, asthma, slip disk and arthritis are other common diseases among corporate employees. Two percent of the capital spent on workforce is lost to disability, absenteeism and poorer attendance arising from chronic diseases.
Increasingly, employers are recognizing that chronic diseases are a growing threat to their employees.