Moving Beyond Modicare: Ensuring Care For All
Dr Dharminder Nagar, MD, Paras Healthcare talks about the need for preventive care for all.
The financial budget included the announcement of a healthcare initiative that is set to provide tertiary care and assistance to a huge population in India. Although through Modicare patients requiring immediate medical interventions would benefit, however there is a huge chunk of population that is said to suffer from ailments that have gradual progression and minimal signs and symptoms. One such growing epidemic which the government is yet to acknowledge and focus on is Mental Illness and patients with progressive neurological degenerative disease such as Dementia. According to recent studies by India today has the second highest population of people suffering from Dementia and managing such a disease one requires much more than just medicines. The patients and their families need care, support and guidance. Degenerative Neurological Ailments – Falling in the Abyss India has about 4.1 million people suffering from Dementia as Alzheimer’s and related Disorders Society of India. The number of elderly is only rising and the number of people suffering from Dementia is expected to go up to 8-9 million by 2035. In India, memory lapse is often attributed to old age which usually masks the onset of this disease. Even the ones who are diagnosed, there is often a social stigma that they are subjected to. Sadly, there is no major change in the attitude of the people towards those suffering from Dementia even after rising education levels and development in other fields.
Sensitization of the public – A must!
People in the country need sensitization towards these mental problems through especially designed campaigns and material through which they can relate, understand, recognize and act to manage the situation. People need to be sensitized on the fact that there is no evil or magic associated with people suffering from any mental illness or neuro-degenerative disorder. We need to give as much care to people suffering from Dementia as possible. People need to be told that even in those individuals who may be suffering from Dementia, there can be remarkable improvements if proper care and a little bit of mind exercises are given to them. The government and some like-minded corporates and NGOs can join hands in making the campaign a reality. The multi-pronged campaign should especially touch the rural hinterland where the social stigma against such conditions is much higher and such mental states are often associated with imaginary paranormal phenomena.
Mentally Challenged – The ones that need the maximum care
Similar is the case with people who are mentally challenged. According to recent reports at present in India, there are about two crore people who are mentally challenged and about a tenth of that are children. Sadly, people still associate mental challenges with some kind of sickness and try to stay away from such patients. They need to be told it is no sickness and again we need a methodical exercise to bring about a change in their attitudes. This isolation actually affects the patients adversely and further complicates their lives. While the government does take note of the mentally challenged population, particularly the children, there are issues of capacity. It has set up about 100 institutions for about two crore mentally challenged people. The special schools or homes of mentally challenged children have excess number of kids. The children are not kept according to their mental age or development and are taught together. There a need to build capacities for such children and many individuals and Corporates are willing to do something for them. Need of the hour is to look at synergies between government and private entities and bring about the change that we want to see in the society.
Children With Autism :
A lot of social stigma is also attached to children with Autism. Today there are more than one crore children in India suffering from it. We need a double pronged approach to handle the situation – ways to diagnose the ailment early and methods to sensitise their environment so that the society is more receptive to them. This neurological disorder is on the rise but sadly there is no change in people attitudes towards them. Worst, even doctors ignore signs of Autism in children and think it is schizophrenia or mental challenges. The medical fraternity, including ourselves, is to be blamed for this. We need proper education in medical schools and even better familiarization in clinics and hospitals. Together we have to fight against the odds that exist for Autism. Situation is no different for people suffering from cerebral palsy (CP). With slightly different actions and postures, people suffering from CP are often understood to be to suffering from some unexplained paranormal phenomena and are thus avoided. We need large scale sensitization for the people at large towards such people. The society has to be lot more caring towards them.
Making Use of Information Technology
One good news is that the information technology has really permeated into all the stratum of the society and so has social media. The government can exploit the situation to reach out to masses and educate them to be caring towards the needy and those suffering from mental conditions. We need sweeping changes in the mindset of the people and many High Networth Individuals (HNIs) and corporate India is more than willing in joining hands with the government to effect that change.
Formulation of Support Groups
Today formulation of a simple support group can help people share their experiences, survivor stories and challenges. Each patient can impact the life of another and be a source of inspiration. National Mascots for Diseases – It is essential that few patients battling neurodegenerative diseases and mental disease stand tall and be recognized for reaching out and consulting specialists. It is important that these patients are recognized so that social stigma associated with the issue can be handled. Special consideration – Special laws need to be formulated so that the patients with such conditions can be accommodated in the in the main stream. The government can tie up with special private organizations to support these patients and provide them professional guidance.
Special support teams
India needs to develop social services teams. This is a essential requirement that can ensure that the organizations are aware of the ground realities. The mass sensitization programs and awareness drives can all be structured through the same teams. There can be numerous ways to set the ball rolling, however we need the cumulative force of the medical, educational and the government machinery to recognize the stated issue with national importance and develop working goals to manage the same.