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Wellness

AROGYA WORLD HEALTHY WORKPLACE PROGRAM

As we continue to evolve into an interconnected world, the emphasis continues to be on how we can retain our health and vitality. While we might have achieved success over infectious diseases, the focus now shifts to Non-Communicalble Diseases (NCD). To add to it a lot of us spend more than 8-10 hours at the workplace, which determines the source of our health and vitality. Arogya World has been working in this space for a while.

Introducing Arogya World

Arogya World (www.arogyaworld.org) is a global health non-profit working to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCDs).   We strive to achieve our mission – to change the course of chronic disease – through a focus on partnerships and innovative technology, and by implementing scalable, sustainable programs with measurable impact. 

The Problem

Non-communicable diseases, NCDs, which include heart disease, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung diseases, are among the top health and development challenges of the century.  2 out of 3 deaths in the world are due to NCDs with 80% of them in developing countries. India has an alarming diabetes burden – 80 million people live with the disease and 1 million die from it each year.

Our Solution – Prevention is key

At the core of all our work is disease prevention through healthy living.  According to the World Health Organization, 80% of heart disease, 80% diabetes and 40% cancer can be prevented by avoiding tobacco, increasing physical activity and eating healthy foods.   These lifestyle changes are what we promote. 

With half of India’s 1 billion plus people less than 25 years of age, we have to find ways to reach young people and teach them prevention.  Mobile technology and leveraging schools and workplaces are smart solutions and these are the platforms our programs are built on.    

Our Work in India

We implement scalable diabetes prevention programs, educating and empowering housewives and farmers, working adults and school children to take definitive steps towards leading healthier lives.  With our India-based programs we are taking the first steps towards building a chronic disease prevention model for the developing world. To further advance this work, an affiliate Arogya World India Trust has been set up as a separate entity. 

Arogya World follows a doorstep health model, which takes prevention to people where they live, learn and work. Our focus is on scalable, science-based programs designed to reach a large population. These are deployed in schools, workplaces, and bringing information right up to people’s phones. Our programs are aligned with sustainable development goals and Government of India’s priorities (Ayushman Bharath, Fit India, Eat Right Campaign and Potion Abhiyan). We believe our work will help India meet SDG #3 which is Good Health and Wellbeing.

Healthy Workplace Initiative was developed with the intent of advancing the workplace health movement in India. We motivate companies in India to invest in workplace wellness through pioneering awards. This innovative approach leverages workplaces, where working Indians spend so much of their day, as a platform for chronic disease prevention. Public Health Foundation of India, IAOH Delhi, CII, iNFHRA, GACS and others have joined us as Commitment Partners.

Employees spend a significant part of their lives at the workplace. Many working professionals have become increasingly sedentary, contributing to inactive lifestyles and unhealthy living.  Employers have the opportunity and responsibility to improve the health and wellness of their staff, while simultaneously improving productivity.

As part of our program we urge employers and leaders to do more to help employees lead healthier lives, to shape their company’s culture to becoming health promoting, and to become data driven around health so that they can improve their employee health programs year on year. We also provide some tools to help individual employees make better and smarter lifestyle choices. 

Corporates have to seriously consider an employer approach to improve employee health, which will help them mitigate sick leave and absenteeism, reduced productivity and increased healthcare costs. Arogya World’s Healthy Workplace Program focuses on employee wellness, the investments companies are making in health and productivity strategies, and the effort towards increasing engagement in health and wellness programs internally.

Company sponsored wellness programs have to include activities such as company-sponsored exercise, weight-loss competitions, educational seminars, tobacco-cessation programs and health screenings that are designed to help employees eat better, lose weight and improve their overall physical health. A healthy workforce means a better bottom line, more productivity, greater competitive advantage.

What are the challenges at workplaces?

Challenges of a Corporate Employee often puts them at risk of NCDs

1. Unhealthy eating, smoking, and drinking,

2. Busy lifestyle and low awareness to health risks

3. Sedentary lifestyle and mental stress

4. Low compliance to annual health check-up

Arogya World’s Healthy Workplace Assessment is direct, robust and transparent.  The process of assessment for the Bronze, Silver and Gold level starts with initial awareness sessions where the organization is taken through the criteria ( http://arogyaworld.org/healthy-workplaces-criteria/ ) and its implications- banning tobacco use, healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and improving work-life balance. Emphasis is also placed on changing the mind-set of management at all levels towards promoting employee wellness.

The company then submits an application highlighting its employee health initiatives by submitting a questionnaire that has been developed based on the set of criteria. Subsequently, a 3-person team (which includes a medical doctor, an industry expert, and an Arogya leader) visits the organization’s facilities, evaluates the initiatives taken, and has a meeting with the coordinating department (which is usually the HR department). This year, the assessments will be conducted virtually.

The findings are compiled and after a good discussion among the assessors, a decision is made as to whether the organisation is at Bronze, Silver or Gold category. To qualify, companies must meet 80% of the criteria in each level.

During the assessment, the strengths of the company are highlighted and areas of improvement are brought forward, as also the best practices adopted by peer companies. This gives the company a good opportunity to benchmark itself against industry standards, understanding of where they are and how they can advance to the higher level. We guide the companies  to improve employee well-being, including physical and mental health, along with tackling workplace and personal stress

More than 134 companies have been onboarded as Healthy Workplaces on our program from 2013-2020, out of which 33 companies have reached the Platinum level, leadership and data-driven initiative beyond the Gold level.

We felicitate our winning companies in front of their peers at our annual Healthy Workplace Conference which is usually held during first week in November- near World Diabetes Day. The event has a workplace wellness Best Practices workshop and an award event.  This year it will be organized virtually.

What are the benefits of our Healthy Workplace Program?

Employee Benefits

1.         Better equipped for and more aware of NCD prevention

2.         Better performance and reduced number of workdays lost

3.         Better quality of life

4.         Fewer health complications

Employer Benefits

1.         Better Corporate Health

2.         Improved productivity 

3.         Decreased reimbursements and healthcare costs

4.         Fewer sick leaves and reduced absenteeism

5.         Lower insurance premiums and lower hospital admissions

We believe a multi-sectoral approach is needed to advance the fight against NCDs and we believe it is our generation’s responsibility to fix NCDs.  Arogya World is determined to use public private partnerships and smart technology to make measurable and significant public health impact.

We aspire to develop a framework for the whole ecosystem of prevention of NCDs by integrating efforts being undertaken by various organizations and professionals in the domain. We would like to build Healthy Workplaces into a robust community and engage more deeply with them offering more programs and services.

By Usha Chander, Arogya World

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Wellness

Sugar is the new health threat : Findings from Credit Suisse Study

Last week I had written a piece informing people about the dangers of sugar and given them 4 reasons to cut it out of the diet. I received a lot of criticism and some feedback on the piece. I do acknowledge that I am not an endocrinologist and have not conducted any independent study on this topic.

But last week while watching a documentary on sugar consumption from New Zealand, I came across references to a report from Credit Suisse “Sugar: Consumption at Crossroads”

Findings from the Credit Suisse report is more validation of my earlier article. The truth is that the processed food industry has been using sugar in large quantities. In addition to taste, sugar is also a good preservative. And last but not the least I feel Sugar is very addictive, more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol.

Sugar is the new threat to our health

There were three findings from the report that were eye openers. These were

  1. Global Consumption- The global per capita consumption of sugar is up 46% from 48 grams a day to 70 grams a day. This is the addition of 280 calories daily. 70 grams is around 16-18 teaspoons. While this is the average, the US leads the world with 40 teaspoons a day while China has the least which is around 7 teaspoons a day. Picture an American and a Chinese. Now you would know where obesity is coming from….need I say more.
  1. Sugar link with Obesity- While medical research has not been conclusive to link Sugar with Obesity, there are indications that the link will be established soon. Today we have enough indicators putting sugars and carbohydrates as creating a greater risk for Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Attacks. While Insulin resistance is genetically determined, it is established that more than 7 teaspoons for women and more than 9 for men is way above the insulin tolerance levels. This is the amount of sugar found in a single bottle of coca-cola.
  1. Medical Practitioners Agree- While a large scale trial or study keeping a control and a trial group across many years have not been organised as yet, the surveys across medical practitioners across the glove have agreed that sugar is the causative elements for the increase in hearts diseases. The concurrence was as high as 80%. Interestingly the consumption of sugar has declined in the upper strata of the society specially among educated individuals. But sugar finds a way to sneak in through processes food.

So what does all this mean for India?

Well in India the number of deaths in India due to heart diseases stood at 15% in 1990 and now it is up to 28%. The main factor for this has been diet. While factors like hypertension are a direct result of obesity, other factors like environmental pollution and tobacco usage also contributed to this number. In other words, our sugar consumption is killing us faster than we think.

What can we do ?

Here are three steps that I want all my readers to take immediately

  1. Educate yourself- There is enough literature available on the net and as well on research sites. Spend some time reading this and take charge of your health.
  2. Watch Documentaries- There are enough documentaries on channels like Discovery and Amazon Prime. This gives you a sense of the research and though process on this issue across the globe.
  3. Read Nutrition Facts- At the back of all food articles in India, there is a table that indicates the amount of sugar that have been added to the product. Read that carefully. Remember WHO prescribes only 9 teaspoons per male per day and 7 per female. Anything above that is very dangerous.

In conclusion, take charge of your health. If you don’t no one else will. As always comments and suggestions are welcome.

Categories
Wellness

4 reasons to cut out the sugar from your diet.

There is something more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol in your diet and you probably don’t even know about it. Its SUGAR.

Surprise Surprise!!!!!

Sugar is probably the greatest threat to your health today and you are probably not even aware of it…..:)

And I am not talking about the sugar you add to your tea or coffee, but also the sugar that is in processed food like Ketchup, Mayonnaise, and even in healthy food like cornflakes.

Yes Cornflakes,

A research article in Times of India showed the results of some research done on popular Corn Flakes and Muesli brands. The brands included Kellogg, Bagrry’s, and Good earth. The research found these brands have more than double the sugar prescribed. According to the European Regulation on Health and Nutritional Claims (ERHNC), “sugar content higher than 12.5 gm per 100 gm is considered to be high’. All variants in the study were found to be exceptionally high’ in sugar. And not even a single product had printed the sugar content on its packet. ” For more on cornflakes please read this article we wrote earlier on the website.

I have personally started experiencing the addiction and control that sugar has on you. Since the lockdown, to counter the drop in energies while working from home, I had been regularly consuming Cornflakes and Musli, little realizing that it spiked my sugar levels leading to mood swings, headaches (migraine in my case) and a general feeling of low spirits. I was consuming a packet of cream biscuits regularly and I gained around 10 kilograms during this time. All this happened while I was still working out and aware of my consumption.

Cornflakes is another seemingly harmless presence in our diet but is actually dangerous to health

It took me until the end of June to figure out what was going. Since July 2020 I have cut out on any sugar in the diet. I drink Black coffee or green tea. I have swapped out sweets and biscuits with fruit. I know these are early days but I already see an effect on my energy, moods and overall general wellbeing.

So why is sugar so dangerous? Here are some of the reasons from my experience as a doctor and some research that has been publicly released globally.

  1. Sugar is a dumb substance. It has no nutritional value. Any sugar that you need can be made by the body from fruits and dairy products. These are naturally occurring sugars and give you fiber, vitamins, and proteins in addition to the sugar.
  2. Weight gain is an apparent downside to sugar. Sugar disruption the Leptin cycle in the body. Leptin is a hormone that regulates the hunger cycles in the body, any disruption in the Leptin cycle can cause weight gain and hunger pangs. There has been some study on this topic, please read here for more details.
  3. Insulin resistance is another reaction to high sugar diets. There is a myth in India that sugar causes diabetes. While sugar does not cause diabetes, but high levels of sugar in the bloodstream leads insulin coming out to regulate sugar, and this causes insulin to be less effective over a period of time leading to prediabetic conditions.
  4. Last but not the least sugars are also linked to higher triglycerides level in the body leading to heart attacks.

So what I can recommend you is to cut the added sugar from the diet. Also, please don’t switch to Honey or Jaggery as the effect is the same. Like the rules for smoking cessation or alcohol cut out, you need to brutally cut out the sugar, otherwise it will creep back in one spoon at a time.

Please also keep the following in mind

  1. Exercise daily, if you can’t take out 30-40 minutes for exercise you are doomed and will be experiencing high medical costs after 45
  2. Eat only homemade food.
  3. Check the added sugar quantity before buying anything from the market
  4. Load your diet with fruits and vegetables.

Wishing you all a safe reading and better health this year.

Categories
Mental Health Wellness

Three health benefits of Yoga

Yoga has been India’s gift to the area of preventive health for centuries. Though the practice of Yoga has seen its ups and downs, in popularity, there is no denying the benefits that it brings to us. So on this International Day for Yoga, let me look at three key areas that Yoga helps us.

Strengthening the back

One of the biggest challenges of this lockdown in the quarantine due to Covid19 is a sedentary lifestyle. This has impacted our backs, especially lower backs. As the back and spine carry the entire load of the body it becomes important to keep the back straight and strong. Yoga practices can help. The one asana or practice that I can recommend from practice is the Bhujang Asana or commonly known as Cobra Pose. Highly recommended for those in sedentary jobs and that practically the whole country these days. This is a useful link, that one can use to learn more about the practice.

Strengthening the lungs

One of the biggest impacts of Covid 19 is on the upper respiratory system. As there is no cure for the virus, and no vaccine in sight, the best defense is strengthening the immune system. One of the ways to strengthen the lungs is by the practice of Anulom Vilom Pranayam. The practice as it helps the lungs to grow the size of the lungs and strengthen the upper respiratory system. This is a very important practice and this link is a good example of how to practice Anulom Vilom effectively.

Calming the mind

The other big casualty during Covid 19 is our mental health. Before the lockdown, it was estimated that by 2020 almost 20% of Indian citizens would require mental counseling. My estimate is that number would be close to 50% today. Financial uncertainty and almost no social contact has led to a situation in which many people are feeling the anxiety and slippi9ng into depression. The recent suicide by actor Sushant Singh Rajput has again brought the spotlight on how we as Indians are exposed to mental illnesses. The yoga practice of meditation really helps in fighting depression and strengthening our mental health. A practice daily of 5-10 minutes has had a huge impact on the mind and productivity. Here is a link that can help you get started on this practice.

I hope these links and practices are useful to you. I have been practicing Yoga for the last 4 years and this has really helped me make most out of my day and time. Here is wishing a very International Day for Yoga.

Categories
Mental Health Wellness

Let’s Talk: Managing your mental health during Covid 19

Man is a social animal and given this day and age, we have been used to getting around across geographies and interacting regularly with other people. But with the current lockdown this is an area that is directly impacted.

While people in lockdown in India have done the right thing to protect them from Covid 19 but their mental health is definitely suffering. Anxiety, depression, Insomnia among others have become common. In this situation, Mental Health Helplines are the best way out.

Lets Talk, a Mental Health Support Helpline is a free volunteer supported project initiated by a group of collaborators to help people cope with emotional impact of Covid-19 pandemic.  

It aims to help those facing dramatic psychological conditions such as panic attacks, anxiety / stress and those suffering mentally and emotionally due to quarantine / isolation /lockdown.

Lets Talk helpline number is 844 844 9428 and has a team of 120+ volunteers who are supporting this initiative, including Psychologists from across the country.

The project has been powered by different International and National Partners in the space of Mental Health, Helpline Support, Social Organizations and Outreach Support. Partners already on boarded include Global Dignity, Arogya World India Trust, Life Surfers, Suicide Prevention India Foundation, Oust Labs, Hope Network, Global Shapers Community, Ria and Manah wellness.

The team behind Lets Talk commented on this initiative

“We are grateful to the volunteers who have come forward to help and support the community at this critical juncture. We believe that mental health impact of this pandemic is going to be significant and will have long lasting impact.

At Lets Talk, we are continuously looking at multiple outreach channels, who could collaborate with us in our initiative to help all those who are worried about the uncertainty of events, a deep sense of meaningless at the moment, missing our loved ones and some of us, our freedom.

At this difficult time, we can’t help you to be in a different place, but we can help you be in a different mind space. So, Lets Talk.”