'DiSHAA - The Right Direction' to address diabetes and obesity

We all are aware that Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) prevalence is rapidly increasing in India. Urban Asian Indian children are also increasingly afflicted with the problem of obesity, majorly due to nutritional westernization and sedentary lifestyle. Research studies show increasing trends of obesity, insulin resistance, and thus increased risk for development of early onset T2DM and coronary heart disease. Interestingly, both children and adults are largely unaware of correct nutrition and lifestyle behaviours. So it becomes imperative to focus on the primary prevention of obesity and inculcation of healthy diet and lifestyle practices, with a view to prevent diabetes and other related diseases.

Padma Shri Professor Anoop Misra, Chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity, and Cholesterol Foundation (N-DOC), Diabetes Foundation (India) and Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd, have joined hands to initiate a country wide diabetes and obesity awareness /education program in 500 schools across 50 cities of India titled "Project DiSHAA" [Diabetes and Obesity Awareness for Children/Adolescents and Adults]. The program was launched at a function at Pune on 5 March 2011. Padma Shri Dilip Vengsarkar, former captain of the Indian cricket team, graced the occasion as Chief Guest.

Project DiSHAA is aiming to sensitise school children, their parents, teachers, and general public. India is currently is home to 50.8 million i.e. 23% of the global population living with diabetes and this number is expected to increase to 80 million by 2030. While it is clear that type 2 diabetes and heart disease are predominantly fuelled due to sedentary lifestyle and imbalanced dietary habits, it is unfortunate that both adults and children are largely unaware of correct diet and lifestyle practices. A healthy diet, regular physical activity, and maintaining a normal body weight can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Clearly, a program focusing on the primary prevention of obesity and inculcation of healthy diet and lifestyle practices and diabetes prevention is much needed.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Satish Mehta, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director
Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd. said, "Corporate Social Responsibility has always been an integral part of our vision and with this initiative we hope to reach out to school children, parents and teachers and create awareness about diabetes."

Mr. A K Khanna, Chief Operations Officer (COO) and Executive Director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals Ltd said, "We believe that DiSHAA health initiative would snowball into a major health movement and lifestyle modifications. We are sure that that Project DiSHAA would initiate changes in nutrition and lifestyle of people, and would lead to prevention of T2DM and obesity."

The chief guest Dilip Vengsarkar blamed excessive television/ internet viewing, lack of physical exercise and easy home delivery of fast food items, like pizzas, for the existing malaise. He exhorted parents, teachers and school authorities to join hands to inculcate good dietary habits and importance of regular physical activity in the children. In a lighter vein, Vengasarkar, who runs several cricket academies in Pune and Mumbai, lamented that vada-pao, a popular food item in Maharashtra, (and the likes of it) was ruining the health of youngsters.  

Under this project, more than 500,000 school children (aged 10 and above) of 50 cities across India, along with their parents, teachers, and the general public will be sensitised against the malaise of diabetes over a period of 18 months (July 2011-December 2012), through innovative and locally appropriate education strategies with the help of 50 top diabetologists from across the country.
In addition to schoolchildren, nearly 200,000 adults and paramedical workers will also be educated in the above issues.
In fact, over 100 doctors were present at the unveiling of the project, pledging their support to this noble cause of promoting healthy living for a disease free society.

According to Professor Anoop Misra ,"Lack of awareness about diabetes is a major lacuna for any initiative to control Diabetes in India. For the first time this massive and consolidated effort from more than 50 top diabetologists from across the country would not only help in preventing diabetes and heart disease, but also strengthen important national initiatives taken recently by the Honorable Health Minister."

Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI).She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: shobha@citizen-news.org, website: www.citizen-news.org) 

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