Patient Awareness and Empowerment, The Key to Liver Health


The liver, frequently undervalued due to its complexity in the human body, is crucial in upholding overall health and well-being. As the body’s largest internal organ, the liver is a veritable powerhouse, silently performing over five hundred essential functions, ranging from detoxification and metabolism to producing crucial proteins and enzymes. Thus, like any other hyperactive and super-efficient machine, the liver, too, is susceptible to weakening. Liver diseases such as hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and cirrhosis can affect an individual’s health and quality of life. Even though liver health is vital, it often takes a backseat in healthcare priorities. World Liver Day is globally recognized and serves as a crucial intervention to highlight the significance of liver health. It also emphasizes the need for preventive and curative actions against liver diseases.

Over the last decade, liver disease has emerged as a significant public health concern in India. This health crisis has prompted the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, to include Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) in the national program for the prevention and control of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and stroke (NPCDCS). The decision to include liver diseases in the NPCDCS stresses raising awareness and promoting early screening and detection, timely and accurate diagnosis, and access to affordable and sustainable treatment.

Challenges in Detection and Management
According to a recent study by AIIMS, 38% of Indians are grappling with NAFLD and NASH, and 35% of them are young individuals with excessive alcohol consumption and unhealthy lifestyles. Unfortunately, this group is unaware of their condition until the disease reaches a critical stage, triggering an urgent need to reassess the approach to liver health awareness, detection, and management. However, a significant hurdle in liver health management lies in the limited understanding of liver diseases and associated risk factors. Additionally, stigma and misconceptions surrounding liver diseases can further impede access to healthcare resources and support services, especially for marginalized communities.

Technology for Patient Empowerment
Technology can help surmount barriers to timely diagnosis and treatment by fostering open communication between patients and healthcare professionals. Digital health interventions leveraged through telemedicine, mobile applications, wearables, and digital platforms are invaluable tools for self-monitoring, medication adherence, and lifestyle tracking, enabling patients to engage in personal care. Simultaneously, training programs provide caregivers with essential knowledge and skills for optimal care, further enhancing the quality of liver health management. Digital therapeutics, social media platforms, and patient support programs are game changers by raising awareness, dispelling myths, and improving outcomes in liver health management.

Role of the Private Sector
The healthcare industry develops tools and technologies to empower patients with information, resources, and support networks. These initiatives play a vital role in enabling patients by bridging the gap in awareness, education, and access to care. LivAlert is a resource library encompassing facts about a healthy liver, signs to identify the risks, symptoms relevant to the disease and tips for lifestyle modifications. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, also advocates that public-private partnerships should be integrated with other programs to monitor and evaluate liver diseases and health care delivery.

When it comes to liver health, ignorance is not bliss; it’s a missed opportunity for early detection, intervention, and prevention. On World Liver Day, we must remind everyone of the importance of liver health and empower them with the knowledge and tools to support this vital organ, enabling good health and overall well-being.

This article was first published in the ET Health World on 19th April 2024, on account of World Liver Day.


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