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How Indians Can Protect Themselves against Their Biggest Killers

After spending the morning in the gym, 34-year-old Mehul Desai, a resident of Ahmedabad, was ready for a regular day in office. Unfortunately, given recent layoffs and increased work pressure, stress had become part and parcel of his daily schedule. He was about to go in for a meeting with his boss when he felt a severe pain in his chest. He was rushed to a nearby hospital by his colleagues, where it was revealed that he had suffered a heart attack. However, it was too late by then, and Mr. Desai couldn’t be saved. Like him, many people around the world lose their lives to heart diseases and other critical illnesses.

Major Killers in India

As per a WHO report published in 2014, heart disease was the biggest killer of people around the globe and in India too, where it killed more than 12 lakh people. It was followed by Lung Disease and Stroke which killed 1,061,863 and 881,702 people, respectively.

Cancer too is quickly emerging as a major cause of death among Indians with 548,015 cancer deaths reported in 2014. Among the different types of cancers, Oral Cancer is the biggest threat, followed by Breast Cancer. Diabetes, Liver diseases, and Kidney diseases took more than 6 lakh lives in the country in 2014.

Apart from these diseases,road accidents are also a leading reason for deaths in India. India has the "dubious distinction" of leading nations having maximum road accidents, clearly indicating how unsafe Indian roads are.

Rising Un-affordability of Health Care

Thanks to modern health care facilities, most of these life-threatening health conditions are curable, at least if detected at early stages. However, a major problem with availing treatments for these diseases is affordability. Over the last decade, the cost of medical treatment has grown at a rate of 10 percent. Medical bills for treatments of cancer, heart diseases, and other critical illnesses run into multiple lakhs with just a single vial of drugs or a medical procedure costing up to a few lakhs. For e.g. 50 tablets of the drug Sprycel, which is prescribed for Blood cancer, cost around Rs 1,65,000. Similarly, a valve replacement surgery cost somewhere around Rs 3.5 Lakhs, Angioplasty cost between Rs1 to 3.5 Lakhs, and a By Pass surgery cost around Rs 2 Lakhs.

The Under-insured Indian- A Major Cause of Concern

While we Indians go to great lengths to ensure the safety and security of our families, we underestimate the role insurance plays towards the achievement of that goal. As per a report in 2013, only 25% Indians have a life insurance cover. On the contrary, our western counterparts, such as the Americans, understand the importance of insurance very well and hence almost 90% of the total American population have insurance. As Indians, we are also not serious about health insurance, which is one of the primary reasons why affording treatment of these critical diseases becomes even more difficult for us. According to a report by the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India, only 17% of Indians have a health insurance cover. Even in urban areas, as many as 82% of patients don’t have any insurance cover for their health

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