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The fairy tale land of Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the remote and mountainous northern region of Pakistan was once famous for the longevity and excellent health of its inhabitants and was believed to be the inspiration for Shangri La, the land of eternal youth described by James Hilton in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon.
Major Gen. Sir Robert MC Carrison, British Agency Surgeon posted at Gilgit (1904–1911) describing the health status of the people of Hunza In his 1922 Mellon Lecture, Pittsburg, USA.
Among these people, the span of life is extraordinarily long” and “a race unsurpassed in perfection of physique and in freedom from diseases in general” The Wheel of Health: The Sources of Long Life and Health Among the Hunza by Dr. G. T. Wrench M.D
Less than a hundred years from the above proclamation, situation has changed drastically for the people of Gilgit Baltistan. Like many developing countries, they are suffering from the “double burden” of disease where they have not overcome the infectious diseases and maternal and child health issues, are now being affected by rising non-communicable or life style related illnesses such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer impacting the quality of their lives and the much celebrated longevity becoming a mere fable.
Loss of life due to these diseases in men and women, as young as forty, is being observed at an unprecedented frequency.
Geographical isolation of the region, lack of awareness, loss of harmony between man and nature, poor diet and hygiene and issues of availability and access to the health care services are few among the host of factors contributing to the current situation.
Silkroutetohealth longevity model
Silkroutetohealth is a volunteer-centred, civil society initiative, dedicated to improve health, education and environment in Gilgit Baltistan. It aims to encourage partnerships between professionals and organizations with expertise in health, education and environment in the village and out of the village (in country or overseas) to contribute towards healthy, literate and safe villages.