KARACHI: Stress, unhealthy lifestyle habits and the prevalence of chronic diseases among adults are leaving Pakistan's newborns more vulnerable to the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), emphasized the speakers in a conference at the Aga Khan University (AKU) on Saturday.
Experts at the 'International Conference on Stress and Conditioning: Impact on Maternal and Generation Health' noted that economic, social and psychological pressures lead to stress and high levels of stress hormones affect the baby in the womb. These chemicals can trigger genetic changes which stall the development trajectory of the brain and heart of a fetus, which results in lifelong effects on the fetus's learning capability, social functioning and ability to fight diseases.
Pakistan has approximately 80 million people who suffer from NCDs or lifestyle-related illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic lung and kidney disease and mental illnesses, according to the experts at the conference.
"Our healthcare system is geared towards treating those suffering from NCDs now. But there isn't enough attention being paid to the inter-generational effects of disease," said Dr Nuruddin Mohammad, director of maternal and fetal medicine at AKU's division of women and child health, adding that by focusing on early interventions in the period between conception and birth the lifelong risk of neurocognitive, metabolic and cardiac disease can be reduced so as to ensure that every child achieves their full potential.
"The link between nourishment and lifelong health has been long established. Insights into the developmental origins of health and disease are clearly showing the importance of environmental factors on maternal and fetal health," said Rehan Ali, associate professor in paediatrics at AKU, adding that this research is making a strong case for conducting healthcare initiatives earlier in life to help achieve targets under the Sustainable Development Goal 3.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 15th, 2017.
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