Health ministry integrating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in national programme


Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan launched the operational guidelines for integration of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) into the National Programme for Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS), on Monday.

Vardhan noted that India is the first country in the world to identify the need for action on NAFLD. “The government of India has realised that the existing non-communicable diseases (NCD) programme’s strategies can now be aligned to achieve the objectives to prevent and control NAFLD,” he said.

The minister also said that the menace of NAFLD can be tackled with three steps which include behaviour and lifestyle changes, early diagnosis and management of the disease, building of capacity at various levels of health care for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of NAFLD.

“Once the disease develops, there is no specific cure available, and health promotion and prevention aspects targeting weight reduction, healthy lifestyle, and control of aforementioned risk factors are the mainstays to disease progression and prevent the mortality and morbidity due to NAFLD,” he specified.

Vardhan said that the government is of the view that existing NPCDCS programme strategies can easily be aligned to prevent NAFLD through lifestyle changes, early diagnosis, and management of associated non-communicable diseases as well as NAFLD. “Accordingly, doable actions have been identified with main focus on health promotion and prevention of common NCDs which would also specifically cater to the identified needs of NAFLD,” he stated.

Vardhan said that NAFLD, the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver, is a serious health concern as it encompasses a spectrum of liver abnormalities, from a simple non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL, simple fatty liver disease) to more advanced ones like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

“Over the last two decades the global burden of NASH has more than doubled. Globally, NASH caused 40 lakh prevalent cases of compensated cirrhosis in 1990, which increased to 94 lakh cases in 2017. NAFLD is emerging as an important cause of liver disease in India,” he estimated.

Underscoring the importance of tackling NAFLD as a step to manage the country’s burden of non-communicable diseases, Vardhan noted, “Epidemiological studies suggest the prevalence of NAFLD is around 9 to 32 per cent of the general population in India with a higher prevalence in those overweight or with obesity and those with diabetes or pre-diabetes”.

“Researchers have found NAFLD in 40 to 80 per cent of people who have type-2 Diabetes and in 30 to 90 per cent of people who are obese. Studies also suggest that people with NAFLD have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in NAFLD,” he added.

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Arushi Sana
Arushi Sana is the Co-Founder of Santerra Living, a bio-pellet factory that makes a renewable form of eco-coal and Co-Founder of NYK Daily, a global news platform. She was awarded the Times Power Women of the Year 2022, Times Digital Entrepreneur of the Year 2023, Silicon India's Top 10 Women Owned Startups of Hyderabad 2023 and IHW Council Climate Health Influencer 2024. Arushi is also a speaker for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship at various forms like the World Bank, UN International Solar Alliance and Universities, and was also invited to the UN COP28 UAE Climate Conference. She is a Sustainability Consultant for organisations looking to reduce their carbon footprint and also works with brands on social media to help them carve a presence in that niche. She holds a Degree in Computer Science Engineering from VIT University and a Diploma in Marketing Analytics from IIM Nagpur. She has previously worked in Ernst & Young and Deloitte as a Forensic Data Analyst. Arushi is a writer, political researcher, a social worker, a farmer and a singer with an interest in languages. Travel and nature are the biggest spiritual getaways for her, and she aims to develop a global community of knowledge and journalism par excellence through this News Platform.

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