Dancing Toward Solutions to India’s Growing Diabetes Crisis

On April 27, We’ll be getting funky with the Funkadesis along with globally-minded Chicago friends who seek a healthier world free of chronic disease

By Neeru Arora, Arogya World Board Member and 2018 Gala Chair

The author at last year’s Chicago Gala

Did you know that chronic disease is the leading cause of death around the world? Two out of three deaths in the developed world and 80 percent of deaths in the developing countries are due to chronic disease. Chronic diseases are among the top global health crises of the century.

In India, this problem is magnified: 20 percent of the population has at least one chronic disease and 10 percent has more than one. This means over 100 million people are suffering from more than one chronic disease. The number of diabetic people in India are predicted to increase from 51 million in 2010 to 87 million by 2030. Due to genetics, diet, nutrition, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, Indians are now getting the disease even earlier — in their 30s and 40s, a full 10 years earlier than people in the West.

Any way you cut the data, the economic impact of chronic disease on people in India will be enormous due to the overwhelming predominance of direct out-of-pocket expenditure for health issues. In a poor family, one quarter of a family’s earnings is often spent to care for just one diabetic family member and it can be 50%, if a woman is the bread winner of the family.

There are many factors that contribute to this alarming trend.

However, there are also very practical, cost-effective solutions that are proven to work in preventing diabetes and chronic disease for Indians — at home, at work, and at school.

These diseases — particularly diabetes — are largely preventable through lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eating more vegetables and fruit (and less sugar and fat), and exercising regularly.

Arogya World is working hard change the course of chronic disease in India and beyond by implementing scalable and sustainable chronic disease prevention programs where people live, learn and work with measurable impact through awareness, action, and alliances. Our integrated programs bring education, awareness and actionable behavior changes to people at home, school and workplace.

For example, our program mDiabetes is a groundbreaking diabetes awareness and prevention in India that has already reached 1 million people. We send texts to people in 12 different languages teaching them about diabetes prevention and treatment. Effectiveness testing has shown that receiving these messages has changed the course of disease for 150,000 people or more — all of which have altered their lifestyles to include better diets and regular exercise. This year, we are piloting a new program called myThali, which provides through clear and colorful graphics and examples exactly what a healthy dinner plate should look like for an Indian woman, man, or child.

We are also raising awareness about chronic disease by reaching students in Indian schools. Through a generous grant from the Hans Foundation, we are able to expand our education programs and bring this fun and effective curriculum to more than 100,00 students. We also reach adults through employer programs. Our Healthy Workplaces program now includes over 100 organizations, reaching over 2.5 million working people.

In the seven years since Arogya was launched, we have reached 3.7 million people. Our goal is to reach 8 million people by 2020. On average, it costs 50 cents per outreach — a pretty cost-effective strategy for such a large and expensive problem.

Here’s how you can help.

We need to raise a significant amount in the next three years to reach our goal. So on April 27th, we are hosting our 6th annual gala. As we have done in past years, we’re holding it in a great Chicago location (the Burlington Room at Union Station) and encouraging guests to wear their most colorful Indian dress or cocktail attire. We’ll once again have incredible cocktails and food and fantastic auction items, the proceeds of which will help Arogya fight the good fight against chronic disease.

What’s new and different this year is that we’re also going to dance! We’ve invited the band Funkadesi to kick our gala up a notch. What a better way to celebrate health than to get us all moving to a funky beat?

I am honored to be the chair of our gala this year and I’m super excited by our work and the impact we make by enabling people to lead healthier and hopefully disease-free lives. I hope you will join me — and if you can’t, please consider a donation!

For more info: www.arogyaworld.org/gala