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New vistas to tackle ills of urbanisation

Novel disciplines of medicine to address unknown diseases caused by altered lifestyle

RAPID urbanisation and shrinking public spaces have increased the dependency of the city people on machines.

 Urbanisation has caused drastic changes in quality of life. Sedentary lifestyle and altered food habits have led to various diseases.  
On the occasion of the World Health Day (April 7), Deccan Herald takes a look at the new specialisations that have emerged to deal with urban health problems in Bangalore. 

Increase in pollution and emergence of processed fast food has lead to doctors seeing varied allergies among people. “What we inhale, drink, eat is not like the old days. The consumption of allergic food and bio pollutants have increased considerably,” said Dr Rudraprasad, Allergy Clinic, KIMS.  

In fact, the number of people visiting the clinic has drastically increased in the past two decades. The clinic became operational in 1992 with two days a week outpatient facility. In a matter of 10 years, the outpatient facility has been increased to seven days a week. 

“Asthama and rhinitis were major cases of allergies earlier. Now we get allergic conjunctivitis, bronchial asthma, skin, throat and even food allergies,” he said. Interestingly, he highlighted that nearly 35 per cent of allergies and asthma were stress-induced. This brings us to the most common and widespread causes in people getting various diseases – Stress. 

Social metamorphosis
India has gone through unprecedented social change. And stress is always a part of any change, says Dr Shyam Bhat, head of stress management services at Manipal Hospital. 

 “People now indulge in less physical work but their minds are constantly multi-tasking the minute they wake up,” he said. 

In addition to this, they are bombarded by all kinds of stimuli – urban landscape and less greenery, necessity and opportunity to multi-task, ambiguous social norms – which play key roles in escalation of stress levels, he added.
Dr Bhat said that his section helps detect the source of stress, thereby intervening before it’s too late.  

Dr Renu Arora, a lifestyle physician at Columbia Asia Hospital, stressed that specialists help in guiding people to alter their lifestyle before it leads to surgeries, medicines, etc. She indicated that 85 per cent of the diseases were related to the lifestyle people lead now, and there is a huge necessity of such physicians. 

Ergonomics
Besides stress, static working also has lead to many problems, especially in the emerging IT and BPO sectors. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders was not known 10 years ago. Now every house has at least one person suffering from RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) or Computer Related Injuries (CRI) caused due to non-ergonomic workspace with wrong postures.  

Lack of awareness
Dr Ahmad Javaid Changal, consultant in Manual Medicine, RSI and Ergonomics, said that there is lack of awareness about Ergonomics and right postures.
  “Sitting in one position for a long time and working without the right posture can sometimes cause irreversible damage to your body.  People need to be aware this,” he said.  

Another area of specialisation of detecting diseases is related to metabolism especially among children. The Department of Metabolic Diseases and Research at Apollo Hospital believes that due to certain biochemical changes in the body, a child sometimes is born with ‘Inborn errors of metabolism’ (IEM). This sometimes results in serious medical illness.  

“Although, the rate of occurrence of IEM is estimated at one child in 5,000 live births, it’s believed that one of the most common reasons for this is the practice of consanguine marriages (within the same family),” said Dr Ananth Rao, senior consultant of the Centre. He felt that early detection of IEM in new born babies lead to prompt intervention, therapy and management.

(Published in Deccan Herald in April, 2010; along with Poornima Nataraj)

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