Primary care centres will offer treatment for Parkinson’s, epilepsy as brain health gains focus

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New Delhi: The Union health ministry said it has decided to offer neurological care at Ayushman Arogya Mandirs, the government’s primary healthcare centres, to combat the increasing incidence of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy and dementia among Indians.

A notice from the ministry, which Mint has seen, said a National Task Force on Brain Health, nine-person committee of physicians from AIIMS, NIMHANS and IHBAS, has been set up to provide additional guidance on the infrastructure and amenities to be included for neurological care at these centres. The committee will has until 15 July to provide its recommendations and services will start after that, the ministry said.

“Our aim is to prioritise brain health,” said Dr Rajinder K Dhamija, director of IHBAS Hospital and chairperson of the task force. “Rapidly changing lifestyles are becoming a leading cause of stroke, Parkinson’s, dementia and epilepsy in India’s elderly population, which is growing steadily and is likely to double in the next 20 years.”

The ministry’s notice, issued on 18 April, notes that disorders of the nervous system have been a leading cause of so-called disability adjusted life years, and the second-leading cause of death globally, accounting for nine million deaths a year. 

“In the past three decades, most studies in India have shown a high burden for specific diseases including stroke, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia, mostly among the urban population,” the ministry said in its notice. “Despite progress in improving access to national health care, disparities persist based on socio-economic status, age, geography and gender.” 

The task force will recommend ways to improve accessibility and quality of brain health at the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare levels; specific actions to create a robust system to diagnose, treat and care for patients with neurological disorders; and ways to create rehabilitation infrastructure to help improve the well-being of people living with neurological conditions.

Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said a major new study by The Lancet Neurology showed that in 2021, more than three billion people worldwide were living with a neurological condition. 

“The world is prioritising brain health and so India also needs to be more aware of it. The recommendations (of the task force) will apply not just to Arogya Mandirs but to tertiary hospitals as well,” said Dr Dhamija. 

“Neuro rehabilitation facilities is still not available for, say, Parkinson’s or stroke. So, we will come up with recommendations to provide structured rehabilitation,” Dr Dhamija added. 

According to the health ministry, there are currently more than 170,000 Ayushman Arogya Mandirs in India, aimed at delivering a range of services spanning preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative care.

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Published: 24 Apr 2024, 01:48 PM IST

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