BENGALURU:One would expect those working in the health directorate to be the most knowledgeable about diseases and their implications. However, health professionals in the state are themselves unaware of their health status.
In a study published in the RGUHS' (Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences) National Journal of Public Health last week, in which 502 individuals working at the state health directorate were assessed for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension, it was found that 40 percent of the workforce in the health directorate were overweight, 11 percent were obese, 18 percent had diabetes, and 31 percent had hypertension.
The study recommends routine screening and medical check-up programmes to identify the risk category and timely intervention. Among non-communicable diseases (NCD) in India, diabetes and hypertension are major diseases leading to catastrophic complications such as coronary heart disease, renal impairment, stroke and death.
Dr Ratan Kelkar, in-charge health commissioner and director, National Health Mission, Karnataka, said, "I agree we should have a yearly check-up for all staff like all-India service officials who have to undergo annual check ups. The state officials should also be made to undergo the same. Last year, we did NCD screening for all staff in Vidhana Soudha and intend to make it a regular activity in all government offices across the state in the days to come."
Ajay Seth, additional chief secretary, department of health and family welfare, said, "Hypertension is a lifestyle disorder. Everyone should get tested in an individual capacity. However, we need to look at whether these rates are higher than the national average. Also, there are 40,000 employees in the health department and 500 is a small sample section."
However, he refrained from taking a guess on whether the percentages are likely to go up if the entire workforce was screened.
Giridhara Babu, additional professor, Public Health Foundation of India, who was the faculty mentor in this paper, said,"The NCD programme is for people in select districts. When doctors themselves do not get screened for hypertension or diabetes, and their blood glucose levels are really high, then it sends a wrong message to the public — that they are not aware of the serious implications and therefore not taking care. If they are not aware, how will they empower the community? Whoever has high BP and diabetes should be provided treatment by the department."
Senior doctors and clinicians who had spent time in state-run hospitals, now working in the directorate, did not know they are hypertensive and diabetic.
Parimala M, deputy director in the State Institute of Health and Family Welfare is the lead researcher and primary author of the paper.
The data on the sample frame was collected during January 2014. The sample frame comprised of 85 medical officers deputed for post-graduation in various colleges in Bengaluru and around 30 who were on deputation to secretariat, minister's office and other departments from the health directorate.
- In the total sample of 502 professionals, 157 were found to be hypertensive
- Out of 274 males, 55 knew their hypertensive status, while 14 were diagnosed afresh
- Among 228 females, 30 had history of hypertension and in the remaining 198, 58 of them were diagnosed as hypertensive
- In all, of the newly screened, 72 were found to be hypertensive
- The estimated prevalence of hypertension in the study was 31% which is higher than WHO estimates for India of 23 %
- 30% participants had high blood pressure and 40% had high glucose. This means they were either not taking treatment regularly or did not have regular follow up
- The study reports higher proportion of Group C having both the diseases followed by Group D, A and B