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An overview of preventive medicine in India

Karan Checchi
Thursday, January 28, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Healthcare industry in India is experiencing a major transformation owing to the adoption of new approaches and technologies to assist consumers in managing their health in a better way. The service providers are taking healthcare more seriously and are working towards innovation to enhance living standard, from a health perspective. Preventive healthcare is becoming an area of focus in most of the countries including India, which is accredited to hectic schedules and lifestyle choices, resulting in development of conditions which could be devastating if not monitored timely.

Stressful and unhealthy lifestyle is a major cause of increase in the count of diseases such as hypertension and diabetes in the country. As per Cardiology Society of India, nearly one-third of adult Indians suffer from hypertension, and two-thirds of that number do not even know it. This makes hypertension the biggest silent killer in India. Seven out of 10 deaths occur due to chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, which in turn makes screening and detection so critical.

The wellness players operating in the market are now shifting their focus from curative healthcare mass offerings to preventive healthcare and personalized services to align with the changing consumer behavior towards wellness activities in order to fulfill their healthcare requirements.

Along with this, the government of the country is also making efforts through initiating multiple programs towards health awareness, thereby contributing to the overall growth of the industry.

What is preventive medicine?
Preventive medicine is a medical specialty focusing on the health of individuals and communities to protect, promote, maintain the health and well-being of the citizens and prevent disease, disability and death.

Preventive medicine is an interdisciplinary branch of medicine considering number of factors influencing the health of a patient. It covers all the elements of socioeconomics, the role of legislation, health equity, and the disparities found in communities and certain populations.

Preventive medicine is endorsed by all the physicians, while some of them are specialized in it. Biostatistics and epidemiology together with medical, economic, social, and behavioral sciences are used by the physicians in this specialty to study the cause of disease and injury within specific population segments.

Preventive medicine is able to treat trepidations in healthy individuals before the symptoms of the disease occur. Thereby, preventive medicine aims to prevent sickness before it happens thus optimizing the wellness of individuals. Preventive medicine can be practiced by governmental agencies, primary care physicians and the individual himself.

Clinical and non-clinical preventive medicine
Preventive medicine can be exercised in both the clinic setting as well as outside of it.

Talking about clinical preventive medicine, physicians look after the patients and counsel them regarding unhealthy habits, perform preventive health screenings and administer immunizations. These physicians working closely with individuals often bump into common cases such as diabetes, smoking, or obesity.

On the other hand, non-clinical preventive medicine physicians do not deal with patients on an individual level. Besides, they work regarding health policy and epidemiology while focusing on the social and behavioral influences on a person’s health.

Types of preventive medicine
Preventive medicine deals in three sub-specialty areas: Public health and general preventive medicine, Occupational Medicine and Aerospace Medicine.

Public health and general preventive medicine
Public health and general preventive medicine concentrates on promoting health and preventing disease on a larger scale. Physicians bring together skills and experience in clinical care and public health in order to build a healthcare system based on the prevention of disease, injury and death, thereby supporting health systems transformation. Public health physicians work for corporations, in primary care, government agencies, public health departments and other settings to influence health outcomes at the individual, community and population levels.

Occupational medicine
Occupational medicine focuses on the physical and mental health of workers to prevent injury, disability, and death. Along with this, physicians examine the physical, structural and social conditions of the workplace impacting the health of employees. Practitioners work with small business as well as large corporations in order to make health plans and policies for the employees recommended to improve workplace safety in hazardous environments, diagnose occupational diseases & injuries and promote health and quality of life in the workforce.

Aerospace medicine
Aerospace medicine pertains to health, safety and performance of passengers and crewmembers within air and space vehicles. Practitioners in aerospace medicine attempt to promote health in settings with several unique hazards. They work to prevent injury of individuals working or travelling in air and space environments from many environmental factors, such as G-forces, microgravity, emergency ejection injuries, hypoxic conditions and radiation exposure

Market scenario
In India, the preventive healthcare segment is on a rise. The preventive healthcare market in India is witnessing growth at 18 percent CAGR. The market offers a lucrative opportunity in order to bring in innovative technology solutions in the country. The major healthcare players operating in the market are progressing into direction of higher user and patient empowerment coupled with better patient engagement models. Factors such as rising disposable income along with growing people consciousness about their health is anticipated to bolster the preventive healthcare at urban and semi urban levels.

On account of hectic schedules and a fast-paced lifestyle, diseases like diabetes, thyroid, hypertension, heart disease are occurring at a fast pace. Everything today, starting from the changes in the environment to the effect of those changes on an individual, can be measured. Because of the presence of advanced diagnostic technologies, disease and aging signs, much before they start manifesting in the body, can be detected. Also, an increase in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in India is another cause for concern and is consequently boosting preventive healthcare trends.

As more and more people are getting aware about preventive medicine and gaining access to preemptive healthcare information over the internet, the chances of increasing life expectancy is giving India an exceptional opportunity to become a healthy nation.

Mega sectors of the preventive healthcare segment such as recreational sports, wellness therapies, fitness wearable devices and healthy meal delivery have grown markedly and are the key drivers of the growth of the industry.

Trends in preventive medicine market of India
Rejuvenation and wellness therapies
Owing to sharply increasing curve in fitness awareness and management of lifestyle among Indians, nearly 130 million health-conscious individuals will be actively taking pre-emptive measures by 2022 in order to ensure a healthy living. Additionally, mounting awareness due to an extensive adoption of technology like fitness-wearable devices is further pushing more celebrity-conscious people to choose comprehensive and appropriate programs.

Workplace interventions
The corporates are considering preventive healthcare as an essential part of their overall wellness and eudaemonia benefits program for all of their employees. Moreover, the corporates are also progressively investing in workplace health initiatives in order to facilitate a friendly and conducive environment as the workplace is becoming an emotional roller-coaster ride for many employees as they are under constant and prolonged stress to deliver and perform.

Government initiatives
Indian Government has also taken numerous initiatives such as Health for All and The National Health Assurance Mission to ease the burden of chronic diseases. The healthcare modalities being implemented are pivoted towards the prevention, screening, early intervention and new treatment platforms for patients, thereby, facilitating better patient outcomes.

Challenges faced by market         
In India, as of now, only 9.6 per cent of the overall healthcare expenditure goes towards preventive healthcare, while other 90 per cent goes into treating diseases and their complications, which accounts for more than Rs 3.6 lakh crore per year.

Secondly, there are the infrastructural issues in the country. India’s ratio of doctors and nurses per 1,000 people is dramatically lower than the World Health Organization average of 2.5 doctors and nurses per 1,000 people. The situation is aggravated by the concentration of medical professionals in urban areas, which have roughly 30 per cent of the country’s population. It is projected that India will require 2.07 million more doctors by the end of 2030 to achieve a doctor-to-population ratio of 1:1,000 as per IBEF Healthcare, 2018.

 (The author is research director, TechSci Research)


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