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Health crisis in the Diaspora

February 05, 2010 22:16 IST
The Indian Diaspora is facing a health crisis says Sangeeta Ahuja, who has been appointed chair of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin's health council.Pointing out that the Indian Diaspora is at major risk from diabetes, heart disease and other chronic problems, Ahuja, a registered dietician, says greater attention is needed for increasing awareness, promoting prevention and managing chronic diseases.

"It is a huge crisis not just in terms of ailments like diabetes, for which Indians account for the highest number of victims, but also in terms of the huge medical care costs that such diseases entail," says Ahuja, a long-time Stamford, Connecticut resident.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes, are the biggest cause of death in South East Asia. The rapid rise in these diseases threatens economic and social development as well as lives and health of millions of people.

To raise awareness, Ahuja says, the World Health Organisation, with the Young
Men's Christian Association and Asian American Physicians of Indian origin will conduct health fairs and seminars and to pass on culturally sensitive information to the Indian community.

"We are going to urge people to stay healthy, take the proper diet and exercise," she says. Ahuja devotes most of her time to counseling diabetic and cardiac patients. She says she increasingly sees patients of South Asian origin.

'In some cultures it is crucial to involve the family member or their support team members; it can be time consuming but that is the only way to accomplish what I need to do. I have a passion for what I do and sincerely hope it makes a difference in the lives of my patients,' she says. Ahuja works at Mount Vernon, New York as director of nutrition services at a community health center. She is also a certified diabetes educator at the Stamford Hospital.

'Sangeeta's patients quite often compliment her for her compassion, her specialty knowledge, and her complete commitment to help people with diabetes to live a healthy life,' said Debbie Milne, director, Diabetes and Endocrine Center, Stamford Hospital.

Ahuja is also a registered yoga teacher and an active member of the American Diabetes Association and former president of the Connecticut chapter of GOPIO.
Suman Guha Mozumder in New York