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AIIMS Study: Higher Prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases Among Kashmiri Tribes

Tribal Health

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A study done by group of researchers from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi has found that there is a higher prevalence of non-communicable diseases like hypertension, heart attacks and kidney failure among the tribal population of Jammu and Kashmir.

The study was conducted in collaboration with Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar on two marginalized tribal communities in Kashmir namely Gujjars and Bakerwals.

Researchers found that pre-hypertension, or elevated blood pressure was prevalent in 22.5% of men and 20.6% of women.

“These values look alarmingly high as compared to the national average of 13.8% men and 8.8% women suffering from hypertension. There are high chances that Pre-hypertension cases convert into full fledged hypertension unless they are treated on time”, explained Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ganie, the principal investigator of the study.

Dr. Ganie told The Health, “Hypertension is a known risk factor for strokes, kidney failure and heart attacks etc. in this population. These tribes live on high altitude. Higher altitude causes high blood pressure. They also have high salt intake in their food and tea. High salt intake is also directly linked to high blood pressure. We are doing further studies to explore more reasons for their hypertensive status.”

Facts About Tribal Health In India

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) of Government of India released their study in 2018, which was conducted on the tribal healthcare of India.

Dr. Abhay Bang, the founder of SEARCH (Society For Education, Action & Research in Community Health), was the chairman of the study along with other experts on tribal health.

The report on tribal health gives worrying facts. Over 104 million tribal people live in India. Almost 90 per cent of the tribal population of India lives in rural areas.

Only 10.7 per cent of the tribal population has access to tap water as against 28.5 per cent of the non-ST population.

“One out of every four tribal adults suffer from hypertension. Further the prevalence of hypertension increased significantly with age, consumption of tobacco, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. Yet two out of three tribal adult men and women did not know the signs and symptoms of the ailment. More worryingly, only 5 per cent men and 9 per cent women suffering from hypertension knew their hypertensive status,” states the report.

Barriers For Tribal Population:

“There are challenges related to social, religious and distance in providing the better healthcare facilities to these tribes. Many of them do not take medicine of hypertension. They only prefer the traditional way of treatment. These people also think that such diseases are because of religious reasons. There are some quacks also who misguide them for their vested interests. Medicines are triple time expensive here comparing to cities because of transportation cost and other factors,” said Dr. Ganie.

The report from Tribal Healthcare from Ministry of Health says, “Rural Health Statistics (RHS) reveals huge gaps in the health infrastructure and resources in tribal areas due to serious geographical and socio-economic challenges. Access to health services becomes difficult as the roads are poor or restricted. Poor availability of health personnel, lack of adequate equipment, language and social barriers, waiting time at health centers and poverty also add to problems of access”.

“The tribal population in the country faces a triple burden of diseases. While malnutrition and communicable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis continue to be rampant, rapid urbanization, environmental distress and changing lifestyles have resulted in a rise in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases like cancer, hypertension and diabetes”, report also states.

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