South Asia, in the midst of a demographic transition, is at risk of suffering from a crippling pandemic of noncommunicable chronic diseases (NCDs). However, a recent World Bank report has highlighted that the region is at a critical juncture where urgent action at the local, domestic and regional levels can turn the tide.
India, the subcontinent's economic and political hub, is the only country that can lead such regional efforts.
Indian leadership would not only enhance the country's domestic public health response, but boost its often mercurial regional image and demonstrate its unique ability to lead.
South Asians face a huge challenge in NCDs (cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and chronic respiratory diseases). The demographic transition is supposed to be a blessing for countries as death and birthrates decrease, life expectancy expands and the prevalence of communicable diseases declines. Naturally, longer life expectancy results in an increase in noncommunicable disease.
However, South Asia presents a special case. The region is faced with what is termed “a dual disease burden.” The rate of noncommunicable disease is rapidly expanding amidst a persistent (though declining) rate of communicable disease.