Health & Life

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By Sanjana Sanghi:

In view of Anganwadi meals being served in the tribal areas of Alirajpur, Mandla and Hoshangabad, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, CM of Madhya Pradesh, turned down a proposal that suggested inclusion of eggs in order to make them more wholesome and nutritious.

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It has been a sentimental issue with the CM from day one. Moreover, there are better, more nutritious options available,believes SK Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.

The Women and Child Development department, that drafted the proposal after a meeting called last month, is undoubtedly correct in believing that including eggs in the diet of children will result in more steady growth and development, especially at the crucial turn of adolescence.

Chouhan has gone on to publically declare that, “Milks and bananas will be served, but never eggs.” Being a strict vegetarian himself, he has received supportive echoes from the Jain Community which sternly believes that, “When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies.”

The fact that nearly 7 years ago, the strictly vegetarian CM launched a certain Project Shaktiman, as a part of which boiled eggs and boiled potatoes were served, is clear indication that such crucial decisions are severely influenced by political stances and electoral agendas. Chouhan had previously declared that his government was “committed to ensuring that not a single child remains malnourished in the state.” This project realised that eggs would be useful in fighting malnourishment as they are rich in protein.

The Jain community in the State has long been lobbying for eggs to be taken off the menu, and have reached out to the CM on several occasions in view of the same. “Do eggs grow on trees? No, it’s consumption has several side-effects. When children eat non-vegetarian food, their sensitivity dies,” said Anil Badkul of the Digambar Jain Mahasamiti. The political clout of the Jain Community has often influenced Chouhan’s decisions.

The irony of Project Shaktiman, which introduced eggs into the meals, and 7 years hence the subsequent banning of eggs in their meals, is hard to dismiss as pure coincidence. It is a clear indication of the extent to which the drive for political power doubles up as apparent concern for the people. It renders all us Indians, at the receiving end, as a duped mass of gullible individuals who are at the mercy of self-serving and unsympathetic political leaders. As though India climbing right on top of the World Hunger List, with 25% of our population being severely undernourished, wasn’t enough. Any possible efforts to reduce occurrences of malnutrition and improper growth need to be battled with constructive solutions, such as the inclusion of high protein-content food items such as eggs. The only other form of protein for these children is dal, which is highly watery and lacks real pulses.

Several other states such as Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan have proposed strictly vegetarian meals as part of the mid-day meal scheme in the past, most often yielding to pressure from private contractors who supply the mid-day meals as well as upper-caste lobbies. As though the beef ban in neighbouring Maharashtra was not controversial enough, such an irrational ban on providing eggs to children in their Anganwadi meals raises several questions regarding what the motives of our political leaders really are.

masturbation good for health

By Spring Chenoa Cooper and Anthony Santella:

Conduct an Internet search for “masturbation,” and you will find hundreds, if not thousands, of slang phrases for the act.

This proliferation of slang phrases suggests people want to talk about masturbation, but are uncomfortable about doing so directly. Using comedic terms provides a more socially acceptable way to express themselves.

So before we talk any more about it, let’s normalise it a bit. Masturbation, or touching one’s own genitals for pleasure, is something that babies do from the time they are in the womb. It’s a natural and normal part of healthy sexual development.

masturbation good for health

According to a nationally representative US sample, 94% of men admit to masturbating, as do 85% of women. But societal perspectives of masturbation still vary greatly, and there’s even some stigma around engaging in the act.

Related to this stigma are the many myths about masturbation, myths so ridiculous it’s a wonder anyone believes them.

They include: masturbation causes blindness and insanity; masturbation can make sexual organs fall off; and masturbation causes infertility.

In actual fact, masturbation has many health benefits.

Good For You

For women, masturbation can help prevent cervical infections and urinary tract infections through the process of “tenting,” or the opening of the cervix that occurs as part of the arousal process.

Tenting stretches the cervix, and thus the cervical mucous. This enables fluid circulation, allowing cervical fluids full of bacteria to be flushed out.

Masturbation can lower risk of type-2 diabetes (though this association may also be explained by greater overall health), reduce insomnia through hormonal and tension release, and increase pelvic floor strength through the contractions that happen during orgasm.

For men, masturbation helps reduce risk of prostate cancer, probably by giving the prostate a chance to flush out potential cancer-causing agents.

Masturbation also improves immune functioning by increasing cortisol levels, which can regulate immune functioning in small doses. It also reduces depression by increasing the amount of endorphins in the bloodstream.

Masturbation can also indirectly prevent infertility by protecting people from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can lead to infertility – you can’t give yourself one of these infections!

There is one final benefit to masturbation: it’s the most convenient method for maximising orgasms.

And there are plenty of additional benefits from orgasms generally, including reduced stress, reduced blood pressure, increased self-esteem, and reduced pain.

Good For Your Partner Too

From a sexual health point of view, masturbation is one of the safest sexual behaviours. There’s no risk of pregnancy or transmission of sexually transmitted infections; there’s no risk of disappointing a partner or of performance anxiety; and there’s no emotional baggage.

And, only an arm’s length away, is mutual masturbation. Mutual masturbation (two partners who are pleasuring themselves in the company of the other) is a great (and safe) activity to incorporate into other partnered sexual activities.

It can be especially good to begin to learn more about what your partner likes and to demonstrate to your partner what you like. Open communication with a partner will improve your sex life and relationship, but is also important for modelling communication skills for younger generations.

Talking about masturbation also has benefits. Promoting sex-positive views in our own homes and in society, including around masturbation, allows us to teach young people healthy behaviours and attitudes without stigma and shame.

Parents and guardians who feel embarrassed or need extra guidance to do this should seek out sex-positive sources of information, like ones from respected universities.

This article is part of The Conversation’s Health+Medicine series.

Spring Chenoa Cooper is a Senior Lecturer at the University Of Sydney. Anthony Santella is Lecturer of HIV, STIs and Sexual Health at University of Sydney.

This article was originally published here on The Conversation.

RO purifier 28.5.15

By P.V. Durga:

Popular media is filled with advertisements about the importance of drinking clean water in order to ensure good health. Have you been influenced by one of those ads and installed an RO (Reverse Osmosis) purifier at home? Or are you planning to install one? You probably need to think twice about your decision, because while you are drinking hygienic water, you might be causing more harm to public health at large.

RO purifier 28.5.15

True to their names, RO filters and purifiers function on the principle of reverse osmosis. Simply put, pressure is exerted on the water containing high concentration of impurities, and it is passed through filters to extract “pure” water. The process came as a breakthrough in the 1950s when people were on the lookout for methods to desalinate ocean water. Reverse osmosis is used not only in the purifiers at home, but also in industries, specifically the bottled water industry, both in India and abroad.

The problem begins with the disposal of the “stuff” that has been separated from the purified water. Reports state that the impure water is discarded back into the ground and aquifers. But why is it such a big deal when it seems like we are merely sending back the water that was not useful?

The answer is, the “waste water” contains higher concentration of harmful substances, which in turn poses a serious health threat to the population, including animals that are dependent on groundwater. Also, the RO process is said to cause a lot of wastage of water, both at the industrial, as well as household levels.

However, Dr. R. Suryanarayana Rao, a Deputy Civil Surgeon at ESI Hospital in Vishakhapatnam believes otherwise. He said that the problem, in reality, is with the “wastage” of the excess water, caused by faulty disposal through drains. Dr. Rao said that the unwanted water could be put to other uses, such as watering plants, when handled properly. He stated that if the water containing wastes is exploited through alternate use, it may not snowball into a health concern. He strongly recommends RO purification over boiling because it ensures that salts and other unwanted components are removed from the water.

However, it is important to remember that the true success of any scientific innovation is when it benefits everybody equally. In this regard, while RO purification is a major breakthrough in the provision of potable water, but the fact that it benefits some while causing harm to others who are dependent solely on groundwater calls for some introspection. It is high time we adopted long term perspectives even for seemingly simple inventions, rather than using science as a quick-fix solution for our daily hassles. The glitch with disposal can best be described as the “last mile problem“, which must be tackled at the earliest, lest we end up causing more harm than good.

Systematic reviews of the research judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee

By Clare Collins:

Some like it hot, some like it iced, and some just don’t like it at all. Until recently, coffee was on the list of habits to break if you really wanted to be healthy.

Systematic reviews of the research judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee
Systematic reviews of the research judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee. momente/Shutterstock

Not anymore. Systematic reviews of the research – the most powerful method to weigh up scientific evidence – judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee. Coffee drinking is linked to a decreased risk of premature death, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.

However, some people will need to be cautious of the amount. Heavy coffee intake has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and can exacerbate heart problems.

Life expectancy

Coffee drinkers live longer. A review of 20 studies including more than 970,000 people found those who usually drank the most coffee had a 14% lower risk of dying prematurely from any cause, compared with those who drank the least.

Even drinking just one to two cups a day conferred an 8% lower risk.

Decaffeinated coffee drinkers who had two to four cups a day still had a 14% lower relative risk of premature death than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

Liver cancer

Coffee drinkers, particularly men, have a lower risk of liver cancer. This is important as liver disease is the sixth-most-common cancer in the world and is more common in men.

Results from six studies, based on the total number of cups of coffee drunk per day, found the relative risk of liver cancer was 14% lower for every extra cup.

Research shows that naturally occurring coffee components, including kahweol and cafestol, have direct cancer-protection and anti-inflammatory properties. Coffee appears able to up-regulate biochemical pathways in the liver that protect the body from toxins, including aflatoxin and other carcinogenic compounds.

Type 2 diabetes

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Across 28 studies of more than one million adults, those who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 21% lower relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who never or rarely drank it.

For those drinking six or more cups a day, the risk was lowered by 33%.

Interestingly, the risk was lower for both regular and decaffeinated coffee drinkers. For each cup of regular caffeinated coffee there was an extra 9% lower relative risk of developing diabetes and a 6% lower risk for each cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Many of the associations hold for decaffeinated coffee. Stuart Colville/Flickr, CC BY-NC

The active components of coffee help reduce oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and caffeic acid, which increases the rate muscles use up blood glucose, as well as having immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.

Prostate cancer

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Across 13 studies that included more than 530,000 men, those who drank the most coffee had a 10% lower relative risk of developing prostate cancer than those who drank the least.

For every extra two cups of coffee drunk per day, cancer risk decreased by a small extra amount of 2.5%.

However, when prostate cancer grade was factored in, there was no protective effect for advanced or terminal types of prostate cancer.

Now, the reasons to watch your coffee intake.

Lung cancer

Watch you total coffee intake to lower your risk for lung cancer. Studies of more than 100,000 adults found those with the highest coffee intakes had a 27% higher relative risk of lung cancer.

Every extra two cups of coffee per day was associated with an 11% greater risk of developing lung cancer.

There were only two studies on decaffeinated coffee and they had the opposite finding: a 34% lower relative risk for high decaffeinated coffee intakes.

Pregnancy

Drinking more that one to two cups of coffee when pregnant may not as be risky as once thought, but it’s worth being cautious.

The relationship between coffee and risk of miscarriage and other adverse pregnancy outcomes in older research studies was more likely to be seen in poorly designed studies, especially for outcomes like low birth weight and congenital anomalies.

Some of the risk of miscarriage was probably confounded by the fact that women with severe morning sickness, which is a sign of good implantation of the embryo, tend to cut down on coffee due to nausea.

The research on coffee comes from population-based observational studies that measure association and not causation. tico_24/Flickr, CC BY

It also appears that cigarette smoking, which tended to be associated with coffee consumption in older studies, was not always adjusted for, so some of the risk is likely to have been due to smoking.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women drink less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. This is equivalent to one to two cups of coffee a day (instant coffee has 50-100 mg caffeine per cup; brewed coffee about 100-150 mg).

Blood pressure

The last caution relates to your heart. High intakes of caffeine can increase blood pressure in the short term and plasma homocysteine, another heart disease risk factor. Coffee is not associated, however, with the long-term risk of heart disease.

People with high blood pressure or heart conditions, older people, adolescents, children and those who don’t usually drink coffee will be more sensitive to caffeine found in “energy” drinks, cola and coffee, and it can take longer to metabolise. Switching to decaffeinated coffee will help.

It’s important to note that most of the research on coffee comes from population-based observational studies that measure association and not causation. That is partly because it would be very hard to do a randomised controlled trial of drinking more coffee and measuring health outcomes over many years. But there’s a thought – anyone like to volunteer for that study?

The ConversationClare Collins is Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Newcastle.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

maggi

By Shinjini Devbarman:

Nothing can sum up an Indian childhood better than Maggi – India’s first instant noodle brand. Out of all the things that are quintessentially Indian, Maggi is a way of life. For those of you who are dependent on Maggi as much as I am, there is bad news. Your favourite go-to snack might just be banned.

maggi
The noodle brand has come under fire recently after samples of it in some parts of Uttar Pradesh were found containing Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in excess of the permissible limit. This has led the Lucknow Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA) to appeal to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in New Delhi to cancel Maggi’s license. An investigation of the product is underway across the country to check the quality. If the investigation confirms the report, you can say goodbye to your favourite lazy snack.

What Is MSG And Why Is It Harmful?

It is a kind of non-essential amino acid found commonly in agricultural products but is also used in food industries as additives in packaged food to enhance flavor. These additives are harmful for health, especially for children. It has been used in the food industry for years, but only upto a permissible limit. The recent sample showed that Maggi contained 17 parts per million of lead, whereas the permissible limit is only 0.01 parts per million. In easier language, Maggi has been found to contain excessive amount of additives that can be harmful for health if consumed for a long period of time.

Turns out, the snack that you’ve been slurping on and relishing for years could be the reason for potential weight gain, brain damage, liver inflammation, high blood pressure, and can also cause damage to your nervous system.
Nestle, the manufacturers of Maggi, are in denial of adding MSG and are ‘surprised’ by the excess of lead in their product. They also contend that there is no specified limit for MSG by the food industry. As your favourite product faces possible ban, you can only hope that reports from further sampling come out negative.

Because let’s face it, if the reports come out to be true – it will be the end of an era as we know it. It wouldn’t matter for the ordinary Indian if it were some other product. The novelty of Maggi, as a product, lies in the way it has become the ultimate Indian comfort food.

Maybe it comes at a good time. Maybe this is a sign to pick up that salad bowl and actually consume it, instead of instagramming it. After all, a salad takes less than ‘2 minutes’ to assemble, no?

marijuana

By Lamya Ibrahim:

What do Marijuana and our Prime Minister have in common? Both can be exaggerated to the extent of being touted as saviors of the human race itself, or be disparaged as one of the worst occurrences of our lifetime – neither being accurate – and it is rare to run into someone whose opinion is more neutral. With popularity and controversy surrounding the drug running at an, forgive the pun, all time high, a balanced discussion on the topic is long overdue.

marijuana
Photo Credit: Carlos Gracia/Flickr

That led to India’s first-ever conference for the legalization of cannabis in Bangalore on May 10th, organized by 23-year old musician Viki Vaurora, with subsequent editions coming up in Pune, Mumbai and Delhi. Limited to 200 people consisting exclusively of doctors, media personnel and (senior) students, the event concentrated on medical marijuana’s benefits and advocated open research into its potential in the management of cancer and other ailments. Canadian caregiver Rick Simpson, who has treated cancer patients with non-psychoactive Cannabidiol oil for 12 years, also noted India’s long tryst with the drug.

Cannabis or hemp, landed in India via China between 2000 and 1000 B.C. It soon became widely used and celebrated as one of “five kingdoms of herbs … which release us from anxiety” according to ancient Vedic poems. Different parts of the plant were used, all containing a chemical compound ‘delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol’ (THC) that acts on naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors in our brain, giving its users a ‘high’. ‘Weed’ consumption was legal in India till the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was passed in 1985, yielding to 25 years’ of pressure from the US Government. As a newly-categorized schedule I drug (i.e., it has a high potential for abuse and no legitimate therapeutic uses), not only its use, but any further research into its medical value, got restricted. With more than 20 states in the US now legalizing its recreational use, plus ongoing research in Israel and Netherlands, activists insist on India needs to keep up with the times.

While laws calling for up to 10 years imprisonment aren’t strictly followed in India’s otherwise ‘punctual’ judicial system, as most consumers escape punishment by paying a ‘fine’, flourishing misconceptions make it such a social disgrace, we haven’t even tapped into its potential for being an excellent source of fibre and fuel. Myths against the plant include it being a ‘gateway drug’ – a mere correlation than scientific fact – or that it turns people into zombies – it does not, while proponents claim it is side effects and addiction free, despite 10-15 % of consumers being at risk of developing mild dependence; recent studies imply chronic use from teenage as a factor for dependence. In fact, data demonstrate that following legalization of Cannabis in US states, consumption rates among teens actually dropped.

The problem with making it illegal is that it leads to a thriving black market and hampers the distribution of correct information. Regulations, like those existing for alcohol, are a must, but putting an overstated blanket statement pushes people into the opposite extreme, risking adulteration with stronger, or low-quality substances. It’s like telling 16-year-olds to go to bed early or the monsters under the bed would get them – it doesn’t work that way with adolescents or adults. They need hard facts, the pros and cons, and the freedom to make their own decisions, as it is with food, exercise and other health-related issues. Meanwhile, a wealth of information remains unexplored, as a low maintenance, multi-purpose herb literally goes up in smoke.

spicy food

By Sarah Moses

Why do some people love spicy food while others can’t bear the burn? It could be a question of testosterone for those men who like it hot.

Eat an Andhra curry and your mouth will probably be on fire. That’s because of capsaicin. It’s the ingredient that gives hot peppers their bite, and can cause everything from sweating to mild discomfort to outright pain. But despite these very real physical effects, people the world over are into spicy food.

spicy food
Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

Why can some take the heat better than others? A team of French researchers decided they’d turn to science to help answer the question. They focused in on men since sociologists have suggested that eating spicy food could be a way for some guys to show off their manliness.

Spice Macho

Testosterone is linked with stereotypically manly behaviour and might also affect eating habits, so the researchers reasoned that measuring levels of this hormone in men’s saliva would be a good place to begin.

They invited 144 French men to the laboratory to dine on a dinner of mashed potatoes. The men were told they could add as much hot sauce and salt to the meal as they desired. Before they dug in, they were asked if they liked hot foods, and afterwards they told the researchers if they thought the meal they’d just eaten had been spicy.

Men with higher levels of testosterone are more likely to douse their food in spicy sauce than those with lower levels of the hormone, the study found. Salt, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be related to testosterone.

Though men who like it hot have more testosterone in their saliva, the reasons behind the link aren’t clear, say the researchers. It’s possible that higher testosterone levels could be the reason a man enjoys spicy foods, but the opposite could also be true: eating a meal loaded with capsaicin could cause testosterone levels to soar.

Ayurvedic 

There are also plenty of other factors that affect whether a man likes to spice things up. Genetics can play a role by determining his taste preferences, and certain personality traits have even been linked to seeking out spicy food.

Interestingly, the chili-testosterone link would seem to square with the ancient Ayurvedic idea that hot spices are a rajasic food. These high-powered foods are supposed to make you energetic, assertive or even aggressive. In other words, just the kind of personality you’d expect from Mr Testosterone.

Of course, there are also major cultural differences. In some parts of the world spice is the norm, while other regions go for blander cuisine. Research has shown that the more often a person eats hot spicy food, the more likely they are to enjoy it. Hot food takes some getting used to, but once you’ve acquired the taste, it’s irresistible!

This article was originally published here on Love Matters

Picture used for representational purpose only.  Source: IB Times

By Lamya Ibrahim:

Falling ill in India is often like standing in line for an all-you-can-eat buffet. Suddenly, you are spoilt for choices – Allopathy, Ayurveda, Naturopathy, Homoeopathy, Unani or Siddha, religious leaders and rites, amulets, charms and potions etc.. Put that against the backdrop of the public’s lack of awareness of general health and medicine, and it can rewrite one’s fate to anything from complete revival to avoidable death.

This is where the media can intervene and make a difference. By bringing to light the advances of medical sciences and what people stand to gain from it, they can help people in taking informed decisions about their well-being. But lately, the fourth estate has taken to a disappointing trend of criminalizing doctors merely for, what appears to be, sensationalist headlines.

Picture used for representational purpose only.  Source: IB Times
Picture used for representational purpose only. Source: IB Times

Last month, the Hindustan Times’ front page featured the shocking incident of a man who had an 8-inch wire left behind in his ‘stomach’ following a surgical procedure for removing kidney stones, allegedly evident of the doctors’ negligence. Further investigations and enquiries from skeptical doctors unearthed the fact that it was in fact a catheter left in place as per the protocol, which was to be removed on follow-up. The paper was forced to take down the article, followed by an apology, for failing to confirm facts with the surgeons in question, and for not bothering to get into the details regarding the procedure and all that it entailed.

More recently, Zee news forayed into hard-hitting journalism, revealing the ‘true’ cost of ultrasound scans as merely 3 Rs., while the rest of the Rs. 600 charged by radiologists supposedly went straight into their pockets. In an age where even a cup of tea would cost at least Rs. 5, this thoughtless statement by a national news channel is abhorrent to say the least. A scan costs a minimum of Rs. 500 even in Central institutes like AIIMS, and covers not just the expenses of imaging, but also interpretation and recommendations.

What these media powerhouses and the cynical public needs to look at is the affordability of services in India as opposed to Western countries whose standards are met by most corporate and tertiary hospitals across the country. While the lowest price at which an MRI scan can be done in the US is around Rs. 12, 700 (with average rates of around Rs 1.6 lakhs), getting one done in India would cost much less at a minimum Rs. 3000 in Government institutions, and up to Rs. 12, 000 in the private sector. In fact, the affordability of top-notch services is one of the factors in India’s leading position in medical tourism, at around one-tenth the original cost for comparable procedures in the UK and the US.

On the contrary, by creating news where there is none at the expense of people’s trust in the medical system, they are incurring more harm than they might realize. At less than 2 per cent of the annual budget allocated for public health, and with an average ratio of one doctor for every 1700 patients, the public health system is indeed in an abysmal state. And like every field, medicine has its bad apples as well. But to paint the entire profession black, as well as to collectively render them and their property susceptible to the law of the mob is an unreasonable work environment for highly-skilled, competent medical professionals. The case of Dr. Rohit Gupta, who was hospitalized following attacks by a patient’s relatives as a result of the latter’s succumbing to multi organ failure, is just one among innumerable attacks that doctors have faced over the years for doing their duty. While ignorance can be cited as the mob’s excuse, what reasons do the media giants have for spreading misinformation?

So, dear media, take note of the damages you perpetuate by widening the already existing gap between patients and doctors. Yes, doctors do have a strict moral code to abide by, but please ensure that you do not put them on a high pedestal and to verify facts before broadcasting them. Instead of drawing unfair generalizations, let us join forces and ask the government to reform the healthcare and health education systems, to deliver to its people the health industry they deserve.

deepti

By Chapal Mehra:

Deepti was 16 when she first started feeling sick. She could not stop coughing. At first she thought it was just normal viral cough, but despite medication, her cough never really stopped. The doctor advised a chest x-ray, and it took her more than a month to get diagnosed with TB. Her family could not believe it and had never imagined that she could have this disease.

Her medication continued but didn’t help. After a few months her doctor informed that a part of her left lung had decayed and hence surgery was required. This was because of a more dangerous form of TB called Multidrug-resistant TB. Her parents were confused and had no clue as to what it meant. Life changed for the worse after that with endless medicines and injections.

Finally, after 6 years of fighting the disease she was finally cured.

Surviving TB wasn’t without challenges and doubts. Yet, Deepti was lucky because she had family support and was eventually able to get the appropriate treatment. Barring some people, everyone stood by her and never discriminated against her. However, millions of Indians are not and they continue to suffer without appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

This is Deepti’s story:

Undoubtedly, TB has become India’s biggest heath crisis. Our country has the highest TB burden globally, with close to 2.2 million new cases each year. Though preventable and treatable, TB kills a 1000 Indians everyday and 3 lakh Indians each year. Most prevalent among the 15-54 age group, it also impacts household income and acerbates poverty by pushing families into debt. The annual costs of TB to India stand at USD 23.7 billion.

Over the last few years, India has been facing an epidemic of drug resistant TB (DR -TB). In 2012, cases of Extremely Drug-Resistant TB (XXDR-TB) were reported in Mumbai. The treatment for DR -TB is extremely long and expensive with an exceedingly poor cure rate. DR TB is nothing short of a death sentence for the poor and vulnerable.

But India’s response to this crisis has been woefully inadequate. By some estimates, close to a million patients remain undiagnosed and untreated, falling somewhere between the overburdened public sector and exploitative private sector. Recognizing the urgent need to prioritize TB, this World TB Day, a group of concerned and eminent citizens wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to make TB control a priority in the nation, terming it as a national crisis. The letter’s signatories include prominent citizens such as industrialist Adi Godrej, scientist M S Swaminathan and actor Aamir Khan, who also hosted a path breaking episode on TB in Satyamev Jayate last year.

The letter is accompanied by a set of recommendations drafted by a group consisting of doctors, civil society organizations (CSOs), epidemiologists and social scientists identifying urgent actions necessary to improve TB control in India. These recommendations are in the areas of public awareness, diagnosis, treatment, drug resistance, information systems and private sector engagement.

The recommendations appeal that India must provide free and accurate diagnosis as well as appropriate treatment to every single Indian regardless of whether they seek care in the public or private sectors. The recommendations also suggest that the government needs to provide all TB patients with an upfront Drug Susceptibility Test, to rapidly identify MDR and more severe forms of DR-TB. Moreover, experts suggest that instead of giving a standardized regimen, we need to individualize treatment regimens, choosing only drugs to which we know TB bacteria are sensitive to. The government must also consider introducing, under controlled conditions, new drugs that have the potential for curing the most resistant TB strains.

The key focus areas of these recommendations are prevention, community engagement and empowerment. These, the experts suggest, can be addressed through comprehensive multi-media awareness campaigns to ensure awareness of TB, community engagement and empowerment programs to help fight stigma.

Perhaps the most significant of these suggestions is that the government must actively and effectively engage the private sector. TB in India will never be controlled without participation from the private sector since more than 70% of all TB patients first seek care in the private sector only. The letter suggests learning from experiments currently underway in India where the local city governments have transformed how TB is diagnosed and treated, addressing the crisis upfront.

It also urges the government to recognize the economic and social dimensions of TB and to provide nutrition supplements for all patients with low body weight or those who are below the poverty line. It should also create economic support programs – to support TB patients and their families during treatment period, to avoid further impoverishment.

While the letter is possibly the most comprehensive and detailed set or recommendations on TB, it will have little resonance until sufficient political attention is paid to this health crisis at the highest levels. Politicians continue to unaware of the magnitude of this disease or its implications. Hopefully, the government will take heed and hopefully we can begin to address the crisis that TB is. Until then, it continues to remain India’s silent killer.

Deepti says “I genuinely believe that TB is India’s ticking time. There need to be proper testing facilities where each patient can be tested freely and accurately. Poor patients must be given free drugs, regular support and nutritional supplements as well. We need to support the patients – together we can defeat TB!”

deepika

By Soumya Raj:

It’s not easy to battle with your own mind. It’s even tougher, when you emerge victorious and talk about it. As I watched Deepika Padukone talk about her own journey in an interview, tears streamed down my face. Having lost a dear friend to the ailment exactly a year back, I understood, I really understood when she tried to talk about that empty pit in her stomach, being scared, and “crying at the drop of a hat”.

Time and again, intensive studies come up with their shiny new facts and figures which reflect our own collective unhappiness as a society. A journal in US National Library of Medicine tells me that more women have a chance of being depressed than men, and yet another tells me that India has the highest number of patients suffering from depression.

The numbers are so high, that about one in every four people in India could be suffering from depression. Given the amount of social silence around the issue, it is probable that a large chunk of the people suffering from depression have never been either diagnosed, or treated. Because of this, the suicide rate in the country, especially amongst the youth, is alarmingly high. At one point in the interview, Dr. Bhatt, Deepika’s psychiatrist fears that it would become an epidemic, if not handled cautiously and addressed immediately.

A lot of people thought that it was convenient to toss away Deepika’s interview as a sham. This idea comes from the stigma related to mental illnesses as a whole. We live in a world where we constantly deny experiencing mental trauma, and contrary to what the numbers say, we think that it is the most unlikely thing to happen to us. Also, a popular belief that goes around is that anyone who suffers from any mental ailments, is probably, “mad”. These are the same people who think that because she’s a well known personality, with surplus luxuries, and an overflowing bank account, she cannot get depressed.

These are also the same people who believe that being mentally ill is just a state of mind and if people want to be unhappy they will be. For people who have been suffering from any mental ailments, this comes across as passive bullying, which forbids them to come out and speak up about their problems. A regressive approach like this pushes probable patients further into their cocoons, probably to eventually let the disease ride over them. The sensitivity that we, as a culture lack has the potential to cost individuals their lives.

In such a restrictive society, Deepika’s coming out  was not only commendable, but also inspirational. I want to talk about depression as much as I want to talk about my jaundice, my typhoid, my influenza. I do not want to be ashamed of my own brain. I want to talk about my anxious personality, the tremors I experience occasionally, my paranoia regarding certain things, my obsessive compulsive tendencies, without the fear of being judged, or worst, labelled as an immediate outcast.

This definitely comes from personal experience, when I say that you do need as much support and compassionate advice as possible. Because of the widespread misconceptions around mental illnesses in our society, most around us think a little smiling, laughing, and a few happy moments would repair everything. Depression is not equivalent to ordinary sadness. It is out of your control, it also, often, transcends into physical symptoms. And tending to somebody’s moodswings is not similar to the treatment a depressed person requires, that too, from a licensed professional.

On my part, I want to thank Deepika. I do not know what gave her the courage to speak out, but in doing so, she has brought in a ray of hope for many individuals, who for the fear of being judged or mocked, would rather die due to depression than seek medical help. I think it is time we ushered in a positive and a non-judgmental approach to mental illnesses. While I am not hailing the actress as an ambassador for all the mental patients nationwide, I do consider her as a model whose frankness and vehemence, in this regard, the popular culture will hopefully emulate.

Perhaps, if depression was in anybody’s control, it would have been eradicated by now. Deepika spoke of her struggle just as another human being would, and if she can recover from depression, then anyone can. For instilling this hope, for bringing this issue to light so gracefully and positively, I applaud her. As stated by Deepika herself, “even if you impact one life, or save that one person from taking their life because they are so down and out, I think we achieved what we wanted to.”

You can find the transcript of the interview here.

You can find the video here.

Photo Credits

By Lamya Ibrahim:

Post-independent India has had its share of medical achievements to boast of: it witnessed milestones ranging from a doubling of life expectancy to the eradication of Polio. And it continues to churn out world-class health professionals every year. Yet, the UN reports that 70% of our public health expenditure is concentrated in the urban areas, where less than a third of the population lives.

Photo Credits
Photo Credits

For a country that has faced major healthcare issues since its inception, the least-recommended step would be to starve its already-dilapidated system. But that is exactly what we see in the case of the finance minister Arun Jaitley’s otherwise balanced annual budget.

The allocated budget for healthcare in 2015-16 is Rs. 33, 152 crore, a little over last year’s Rs. 30, 645 crore. The total amount spent in the first three years of the 12th Five-Year Plan has been around Rs. 70, 000 crore, which falls way below the Rs. 2, 68, 000 crore allocated for the 5 year period. While the government aims to meet its fiscal deficit target, slashing Rs. 60 billion from the budget sets our frail healthcare industry on a pitiable expedition. Our healthcare sector will be unable to meet the minimum expenses.

Currently, India spends a little over 1% of its GDP on public health, in contrast to China’s 3%, Brazil’s 4.1% and US’ 8.3%.

The intention for building an integrated system for delivering affordable and accessible healthcare for all is clearly there, but it is not reflected in this year’s distribution.

It is impractical to simplify the public healthcare scenario. We have understaffed, overcrowded hospitals and clinics, rife with corruption, absenteeism and inadequate resources. Their facilities are far from meeting the requirements for dealing with basic issues, such as malnutrition, infections, and preventive healthcare.

More children die because of preventable illnesses, such as diarrhea and pneumonia in our country than in the neighbouring countries, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Adults face no less a challenge, when as many as 80 per cent of those afflicted with dengue every year either never seek medical care, or are turned away from overcrowded hospitals.

We also have a nation with a teeming population, decreasing mortality rates, and rising life expectancy rates. All of these have lead to an increase in instances of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

Out-of-pocket expenses on dealing with these healthcare problems push an estimated 39 million Indians to poverty every year. Under addressed mental health issues too paint a tragic picture as India’s suicide rate in the age group of 15-29, arguably the most productive period of an individual’s life, is the highest in the world.

The cutback affects schemes concerning a range of issues including malnutrition, right to education, health, child protection, and support to the disadvantaged groups – the scheduled tribes and castes. While allocations in these areas have always been significantly less, these cuts will push some of the schemes further back and ensure that they can’t be launched at all.

Schemes such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) have been hit hard just as they were beginning to show results. Worse still, the Finance Ministry has ordered a cut in the spending for India’s HIV/AIDS program by about 30 per cent to Rs. 13 billion, an absurd step for a nation that accounts for more than half of all AIDS-related deaths in the Asia-Pacific region.

Another missed opportunity was the lack of incentives for the pharmaceutical industry, which has recently come to the forefront as the leading producer of generic drugs worldwide. Facing stiff competition from China, the dearth of support for its capital investment needs, research and  development investments, or tax exemptions is a major setback. The ‘Make in India’ campaign’s aid to the development of Indian pharmaceuticals and medical devices would have given a boost to the health industry as well as the economy.

On the positive side, the proposition for the extension of health cover and initiatives to boost health insurance will reduce the out-of-pocket spending. Setting up AIIMS in different locations across India, would strengthen the tertiary care infrastructure in these states. However, the need of the hour is to reinforce primary and secondary healthcare facilities, as is evident from the ongoing crisis of Swine flu.

Further, the spotlight on Swacch Bharath Abhiyaan concentrates on sanitation. Moreover, the tax exemption provided under this program is a commendable step; its acceleration and implementation can help keep disastrous diseases, such as Malaria under check.

Nevertheless, the government has a long road to travel if it is to win back the confidence of its people as well as its healthcare providers. Recent tragedies such as the botched sterilizations in Chhattisgarh have alienated even the poorer classes from accessible facilities. Meanwhile, the morale of its healthcare providers remains at an all-time low. With underpaid staff, under-resourced health centres and a neglected medical education system, they need serious attention from the centre.

India needs to raise its public healthcare expenditure to at least 2.5% of the GDP so as to fulfill the promise of universal health coverage. Tackling the issue requires getting to its multiple roots, including hygiene, female empowerment, and literacy.

The government must gear up to accommodate a dual battle against a developing country’s health concerns and a host of developed world disorders. New methods of fund transfer, procurement, and a supply of life saving drugs and diagnostics for the implementing units should be conceived for better healthcare.

Let’s hope that the Centre considers all these aspects and rethinks its budget allocations for subsequent years.

 

Photo Credit

By Karthik Shankar:

When Arun Jaitley gave his budget speech in the parliament, he brought a whole lot of cheer to the industry. The government’s budget has a host of positive developments, all of which will no doubt stimulate the economy. The business friendly environment that the NDA has long promised seems closer to being a reality. The centre, however, barely gave any thought to one of our most pressing issues – healthcare.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Despite all the hoopla about Modi’s ambitious plan to offer universal healthcare under the National Health Policy 2015, the idea seems to have disappeared without a squeak. That plan was estimated to cost $26 billion (Rs 160,693 crore). Keeping that in mind, it’s alarming to note that the government’s outlay for The Department of Health and Family Welfare is Rs 29653 crore, almost Rs 6000 crore less than that allocated in last year’s budget. India’s spending on healthcare is already one of the lowest, even in the developing world. It’s spending as a percentage of its GDP lags significantly behind other BRICS countries – just 1.3% of the GDP is spent on healthcare. The second lowest country, China, spends 5.1%. These are horrendous figures, anyway you cut it. So let’s look at what the government has focussed on.

There are plans to set up new AIIMS in several states including Kashmir, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. India might have a shortage of quality doctors, but what we lack even more is matching medical professionals to people who are in dire need of their services. There’s nary a mention of Gramin health centres in the Centre’s budget plan. These are the key venues where most of rural India avails medical care. While there are passing references to setting up medical centres in each village, tangible measures seem to be non-existent.

And there are, rightfully, questions about who the government is fending for. The limit of deduction for health insurance has increased from Rs 15,000-25,000. While it’s a good move, its primary beneficiaries will be middle class families who can afford health insurance. The government seems to be incentivising the middle class to switch over to private healthcare, which is not a bad way of reducing the state’s healthcare burden, but also provides a lower impetus to improve the infrastructure and quality of public hospitals. There’s also the problematic aspect of giving perks to those who can afford healthcare and ignoring the many millions who can’t.

The government also seems to think access to clean drinking water is not a problem. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme has an allocation of Rs 108 crore for a population of 1.3 billion people! Water borne diseases are one of the primary killers in our country, responsible for cholera, diarrhoea and a host of other illnesses. Diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children globally and India alone accounts for over a quarter of deaths .

The centre is also asking states to increase their contribution to schemes such as the National Health Mission. Medical care is the prerogative of the government and to shift the burden to the states will only create even more of a divide in health services between different states.

There’s also the question of how much the government is serious about tackling epidemics like swine flu which have the potential to wreak havoc on the social fabric in our country. A mere Rs 41 crore has been allocated for ‘Matters Relating to Epidemics, Natural Calamities and Development of Tools to Prevent Outbreaks’. Given that so far, more than 19,000 people have been infected with swine flu and over a thousand have died, the outlay is a pittance.

To be fair, the government t has taken some notable measures. Import duties on medical equipment have not been increased. Meanwhile ambulance services are now both tax-free and customs duty exempt. However, what has been proven time and again is that universal healthcare is essential for a country that aims to improve a host of welfare indicators from life expectancy to productivity. It’s the reason why a world superpower like the United States lags behind countries like UK, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden with regards to healthcare. At least with regards to medical care, socialisation need not be a dirty word.

lgbt

By Jayaprakash Mishra:

Why do we need LGBT support groups in educational institutions?

lgbt

In an anonymous letter published in The 5th Estate, a student from IIT Madras recounting his tale writes:

“Homosexuality in college is purely an outlet of comic relief. You call someone gay, you say you’ll be ‘cool’ with it, because you’re oh-so-progressive, and you tease him with another guy (In fact homosexuality has become indispensable in today’s interaction sessions)…”

On a similar note, another student from IIT – Bombay, under the pseudonym of ‘H’ ruminating on his difficulties during the initial days in the institute writes:

“And so I chose the path of aloofness. Under the pretence of being a muggu, and having no desire for human company, I sought refuge in the Institute library all through my fresher year, scrupulously avoiding nearly all social contact.”

As an IIT Delhi alumnus, Balachandran Ramiah, Mechanical Enginnering, B.Tech., class of 1982, recalls his difficulties of being closeted, and the unavailability of a peer group in the following words:

“It was true, however, that I used to feel extremely isolated and lonely, as I could not relate to the other boys’ interest in girls, their small talk, and I could not share my feelings with anybody. I was also not aware of any other gay student on campus, or in my class (I am sure that they were there, but everybody was in the closet and hiding)…”

(Fortunately, today IIT – M has Mitr, IIT – B has Saathi, and IIT – D has Indradhanu, the LGBT support groups and counselling cells, which ensure that such stories are not repeated, and students, irrespective of their sexual orientation, enjoy their stay on the campus.)

I am sure that these personal narratives can put anybody under emotional stress, and make any sensible person put on his thinking cap. So, what do we see here? Have we deliberately chosen to close our eyes towards educational institutions, when it comes  to one of the most important aspect of our lives – our sexuality? Why is it a big deal to talk about sexuality in educational institutions? Now, I can almost hear some people grumbling, “Why at all should we talk about it?”

‘Don’t these narratives answer the question well?’

So, with these narratives from some of the premier institutes of India, (I am sure this is just a tip of the iceberg) can I take the liberty to say that the alternative sexuality community in educational institutions are stigmatised?

What is stigma?

Stigma, as we understand, can be loosely categorised under the following headings – prejudice, stereotype, and discrimination. Our films are replete with examples of homosexual stereotypes, e.g., portrayal of gay men as sissy designers, and lesbians as butch psycho killers. People who are prejudiced endorse negative stereotypes. Similarly, discrimination is negative actions against a certain stereotyped individual or group, which can make a troublesome impact on them, limiting the quality of life and opportunities for those who are open and out, about their alternative sexuality status.

Strategies for changing public stigma on campus:

There is no gainsaying the fact that there is no hard and fast, magic-wand method to make the public stigma disappear, either through a legal framework, or by public policy. Since the problem pertains more to society, the strategies of dealing with public stigma have to be more social in nature. Public stigma can be encountered by three major strategies: protest, education, and contact.

Protests:

Any discrimination against any individual belonging to the LGBT community should be brought to the attention of the support group/counselling cell. Healthy protests can happen at two different levels; firstly, by economic boycott, and secondly, by putting the perpetrator (can range from an individual to a system) to shame through nonviolent protest.

Case in point is the petition against the reinstatement of Act 377 of the IPC by the Supreme Court from the teachers, students, and staff of the different IITs. A simple candle march or a public meeting with placards in solidarity with the stigmatised individual or group can certainly make a difference.

But, protesting has its own problems. There are possibilities of attitude rebound, whereby, people can often be seen saying, ‘don’t tell me what I should do, and what I should not’. Thus, protests may help in diminishing the negative attitude amongst the people, but fail to instill positive attitudes supported by facts and information. So, it is not just about protests, but also disseminating information amongst the masses as well as educating them on the LGBT issues, as these are equally important.

Education:

The biggest task that education, which may not  necessarily be formal education performs is that it replaces myths with facts. There are myths galore associated with homosexuality (it is a disease and is not natural), which should be replaced by facts (it is natural, and not a disease, courtesy – American Psychiatric Association, which dropped homosexuality from the list of mental diseases in the DSM).

On a larger scale, it has been seen that people who attend small educating sessions on issues like homosexuality are less likely to endorse stigma and discrimination. In educational institutions, short-term/semester-long courses on gender and sexuality should be offered. This will offer students a scope for discussing and debating the LGBT issues in a formal, academic set up. However, on a  smaller scale and informal level, screening of queer themed movies, inviting academicians and activists for talks, distributing flyers, encouraging people to write and publish on queer issues in the institute’s magazine and newsletter, will help in dispelling myths, and in widening the world view of the people on the campus.

However, the magnitude and the duration of the positive effect of education are limited and short-lived. Sometimes, it is also related to the prior knowledge of the person as well as his or her preparedness to receive the disseminated knowledge.

Contact:

The third and, probably, the most effective way to diminish the stigma of the general public is to facilitate the interaction between the members of the stigmatised group and the general public.

Celebrities coming out (unfortunately, iconic figures with possibly homosexual orientation in India, prefer not to openly declare it either), casts its own positive effect on the people. However, if somebody ‘just like me’ comes out to the public as a homosexual, it casts a larger as well as a deeper impact on both the closeted as well as the heterosexual students. Significant improvement in the attitude of the people can be seen by the actions of somebody in the neighbourhood they can relate to, and the students are less likely to endorse prejudiced and discriminatory attitudes towards the LGBT community.

Contact requires immense courage to come out, which also has its own setbacks in the educational institutes that pertain more to the heteronormative mind-sets and act in a homophobic fashion. One has to be very particular about one’s safety, financial independence, availability of a support system, and support from the family before deciding to come out. (Though not a fool proof coming-out guide, this may still help those in need.)

All of us, irrespective of our gender and sexuality, certainly deserve a healthy, stress free, and non-discriminatory educational environment, where our budding talents can come to fruition naturally. One has all the right to seek access to a safe space, where one can just be oneself without actually having to pretend to be someone else.

Photo Credit

By Anjali Nambissan:

India is fast-becoming a strange country where we have the problem of both malnourished, as well as, obese children. A 2012 study by The Endocrine Society claims that childhood obesity in India has jumped from 9.8% of total obesity figures to 11.7% in the period between 2006 and 2009. Last month, the Washington Post reported that 80 per cent of the 65 million cases of diabetes in India are caused by obesity. In 2014, the number of weight-loss surgeries went up to 18,000 from 800, five years ago – The Post quoted the chief bariatric surgeon at New Delhi’s Max Healthcare Hospital as saying:

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

“Why are we becoming obese and unhealthy?”

It has a little to do with our growing middle class and a lot to do with what this growing middle class is growing up on.

Let me explain…

In 2010, the Centre for Science and Environment put under the scanner 23 junk food samples from seven food categories like potato chips, Indian snacks such as aloo bhujia, sweetened carbonated drinks, burgers, pizza, French fries and instant noodles. What they found might stick in your throat (pun intended):

1. The salt content in instant noodles (Masala Maggi has 4.2 gms of salt/100 gms of sample) and salted potato chips (Uncle Chips Spicy Treat has 3.5 gms/100 gms) overtakes our WHO recommended daily dosage of 5 grams per day.

2. Indian snacks (Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia has 37.8 gms of total fat/100 gms), pizzas (Slice of Italy’s classic Margherita pizza has 55.6 gms of carbs/100 gms) and burgers (KFC’s Chicken Zinger burger has 16.9 gms of total fats/100 gms) are high in fat and carbs. So they can give you heart disease as well as, type 2 diabetes. A healthy adult should on average eat about 250-350 grams of carbs and 35-80 grams of fat, each day. Do the math.

3. Carbonated drinks and desserts from fast food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC have dangerously high levels of sugar. Both Pepsi and Coca cola have about 14-15 gms of sugar per 100 gms. If I’m not wrong, that means a 500 ml bottle of Coke/Pepsi has about 70 gms of sugar!

There are no regulations requiring take-away food and fast food available at major outlets to label their products and provide nutritional information.

Growing in the middle

Experts are pointing at a growing relationship between an expanding middle class and their expanding waist line. A 2013 study, titled The Rise of the Quick Bite, by management consultants, Technopak, claim that thanks to the ‘home-based consumer’ turning into an ‘indulgent Indian’, the food services market is set to grow to a whopping INR 408,040 crore (USD 78 billion) by 2018. Fast food chains alone are projected to grow by 75 per cent. Anyone noticed the new Burger King around the corner or the Taco Bell in the mall? Thanks to these international fast food giants, which are widely discredited in their home countries for making people sick, the fast food chain market grew to an approximate value of INR 5,500 crore in 2013.

What’s more? A 2008 Integrated Disease Surveillance report says that our rural population is catching up fast. Data from the seven states chosen for the survey showed that more people, across urban and rural areas, are consuming fast food.

Why are we ignoring our mother’s age-old advice of eating good ol’ ghar ka khana and moving towards a fast food future of death and diseases?

Doctors protest

By Gargeya Telakapalli:

In what seems to be a face-off between the junior doctors and the government of Telangana, lies a larger debate about the path the country is treading in both healthcare and employment.

The junior doctors in the state of Telangana have been on strike since September 29 on the issue of mandatory rural service on completion of education. They demand the scrapping of G.O. MS. No. 107, and that students who have to do compulsory service in rural areas after passing out be offered permanent employment and salaries at par with assistant professors and civil assistant surgeons. The government on the other hand was planning to send the passed out students only for a period of one year and that too on a contractual basis with low pay.

Doctors protest

Governments implemented mandatory service as part of tackling the lack of skilled professionals in the government owned primary health centres and to increase the doctor patient ratio in the semi-urban and rural areas of the country. The doctors have been urging the government to make permanent posts to achieve the goals mentioned in G.O. MS. No. 107 and solve the issues of high infant mortality and maternal mortality, thereby achieving the target of IMR at 18 per 1000 live births and MMR at 54 per 1 lakh live births.

The junior doctors under the banner of the Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association (TJUDA) have been the voice of the graduate and postgraduate medical students of the state over past decades. The Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association has its strength in the government medical colleges with limited presence in the private sector medical colleges. The same junior doctors were at the forefront of the struggle for statehood and are known for the spirit of struggle on issues pertaining to the society, along with issues bothering medical students.

In the last one month the postgraduate students lay siege to the office of the Directorate of Medical Education (DME), protested outside the state secretariat and have been carrying on various non-violent protests like dharna, rallies and meetings all over the state. The demand of the junior doctors is clear at the present stage where they are not against compulsory rural service, but demand that the pay be sufficient and that job security be provided by making the postings permanent. It is argued that the main motive of the government to increase the number of doctors in primary health care centres would be solved if it would recruit the doctors on a permanent basis rather than sending them on a one year basis. The evidence for it was that the past year’s recruitment saw an excess of applicants where thousands applied for the 1324 civil surgeon posts and the 350 specialist posts, however the recruitment was cancelled by the government due to unknown reasons.

The government on the other side has been accused of playing a mute spectator, criticized for the way the protests have been dealt where the students and the tents under which they were fasting were removed in police action post-midnight, at around 3:30 a.m. in the premises of Osmania medical college. The striking doctors have come under fire for boycotting their duties and participating in the strike .The government and some sections of the society have been blaming the medicos for not attending to health services and failing to serve the poor in the rural population, to which the medicos have replied again and again that protesting against injustice is their right and that they are not against serving in the countryside.

If we see the whole issue we would understand that the government seems to be very keen on sending the medicals students on a contractual basis as part of decreasing its spending on the health sector. This trend of the government is a phenomenon all over the country where the state governments have notoriously been cutting down their expenditure on healthcare services, healthcare providers and their recruitment. This trend of low expenditure on health and lack of permanent jobs can be attributed to the neo-liberal economic policies that are being followed in the country.

The present central and state governments should also understand that the country’s healthcare needs more funding than what is being allocated in the present budget. The answer to the problem would be nothing less than permanent recruitment of young doctors which would solve the lack of skilled professionals and healthcare providers on a long term basis.

 

5 days of dignity

By Youth Alliance:

Take a moment today. Here, right now, just stop. We, as a nation, in a much celebrating manner recognize childbirth as a woman’s domain. Why not then, can we embrace the fact that women menstruate? We rejoice and celebrate those nine months of pregnancy but what about the rest of a woman’s life journey where the significance of life flows out of her? Why is she then, a victim of myths and taboos? Instead of dreading their menses, early humans cherished the uterus and women’s cycles of menstruation, Pregnancy, birth and menopause and celebrated the uterus as the body’s center of Female power and creativity.

It is out of question then, that this periods’ related discrepancy is NOT perpetual and ancestral. What happened then? Where did we lose the way? Or rather paved new paths? Think about all those times when the shopkeeper wrapped up your sanitary napkin in a newspaper and put it in a black packet before he gave it to you as if it were some kind of a bomb. Think about the times where perhaps you or your female counterpart kept standing outside the temple or a mosque. These are the generalities. There are places where women have never went out and bought a sanitary pad on their own from the market, shying away from the male shopkeeper. There are cases, worse still, where women haven’t even used a sanitary napkin considering ‘wasting’ money on it to be irrelevant. Only 12% of Indian women have access to sanitary napkins. But today we are not here to deal with these issues. We are here to start slow but make it big. We are here to embrace womanhood. The moment’s over and now, today, we at ONUS, Youth Alliance are making an effort to eliminate the evil myths regarding menstruation that play in the shadow of our hearts.

Youth Alliance has collaborated with Goonj, the expert in the field with their initiative “Not Just A Piece of Cloth” to take the issue of lack of access to sanitary pads and menstrual hygiene to the university and proudly announces #Five Days of Dignity”, whereby we shall solemnly try to break the shackles which shackles woman every month. Our program is majorly centered at two colleges- Hindu and Jesus Marry College. Our initiative will involve sensitive street plays, a simulation drive where we will make sanitary napkins in our college campuses, dialogue with eminent personalities where people will get a chance to speak openly about menstruation through a discussion forum. It will also involve street interviews where we shall ask random questions about menstruation just to reach out to the discomfort on this issue. We vouch to make a change; do you care to be the change? Please be the support we are seeking. Join us in our campaign.

Our five days are our dignity. What are your five days like?

Join us on 3, 5, 7 Nov in Hindu and Jesus and Mary College.

Picture Credits: ventolinmono

Submitted Anonymously:

Last week, I was on a hospital bed getting my stomach washed. A few hours before I had taken a lethal quantity of tablets to end my life. Luckily, I survived to tell my story. Why did I take the decision to kill my own self? What compelled me to take such a fatal path? Had I failed in the exams? Had my partner ditched me? The answer is no. The more I interrogate myself with these questions, the more I find myself confounded. The truth is I don’t know why I wanted to die, but I know how I reached that dark corner of life where only hopelessness was my companion. The thing I called ‘dark corner’ was a panic attack I could not cope up with.

Picture Credits: ventolinmono
Picture Credits: ventolinmono

I am a depressed teenager with high dreams and lofty ambitions. I am a coolie carrying the burden of expectations of this society, my family and my own self. I have been fighting a war of nerves for many years now. I was 16 when the shrinks at the hospital declared that I was bipolar, which means I am suffering from manic-depressive illness. The disease has its own vicissitudes – I am happy sometimes, and often, I take a long trip to the valley of gloom. Mostly, I don’t have a yen for eating anything. I often feel like giving up everything and running away from my own self.

I have no qualms in saying that I am mentally unwell, but the society has. It was evening time when I was brought to the hospital by one of my friends. I was quivering while my abdomen was toxic enough to kill me. Here started the story of whispers and favourable lies. Except the medics, few of my friends and family, everyone was told a made-up story of how the tablets accidently entered my belly. Some were told I had gastro problems. No one was told the truth that in the surge of my stigmatized illness I had attempted self-murder. Why? Because had they known the real account of my doing, my future was doomed. In our society, mental illness is not treated at par with other illnesses.

We are the outcasts of this civilized world. People will show sympathy towards us but then talk ill behind our backs. Very few will understand. You can’t talk openly about your health because then they would have only one line for you — He is mental! He is a psycho! Wo Pagal hai! Yes, I am weak and suffer from a disease that is related to the mind. But I didn’t choose my illness, then why punish me for what is not in my control?

In a country where there is only one psychiatrist for a whopping 343,000 people, silence is the hallmark of any mental health disease. There is a silent majority which continues to suffer because of the stigma we have attached with mental health related disorders. There is a need for greater awareness to destigmatize mental illnesses. The National Mental Health Policy, launched this year, is certainly a first step towards that.

I survived to tell my tale, but there are thousands who succumb on that hospital bed without even knowing that their condition could have improved and there was no need to hide their condition. Let’s speak up and end the stigma that enforces this lethal silence.

The author is a student of journalism and wishes to remain anonymous.

Picture Credits: Rotary Club of Nagpur

By Saurabh Gandhi:

3 million units. Yes, that is the situation of blood shortage in our country, according to a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report. With a population of 1.2 billion, it is a shame that we are falling short of the required 12 million blood units annually, being able to collect only 9 million units. Lack of awareness and incorrect information or myths around blood donation in India are cited as the main reasons behind this shortfall.

Picture Credits: Rotary Club of Nagpur
Picture Credits: Rotary Club of Nagpur

With over 100 successful donor arrangements in Kolkata, it is this shortfall that an organization called “The Saviours” is trying to bridge. True to their name, it is a life saving registered organization which works towards providing blood donors when blood banks and all other sources are exhausted. Founded by a young college graduate, Kunal Saraff, the organisations’ vision is very simple: “To ensure that no body dies for the want of something that is abundant in everyone’s body.”

It works this way – People who are willing to become voluntary blood donors register with “The Saviours”; whenever there is a request for a particular blood group, they are contacted and if available, they donate. “You don’t need to be God to save lives… Be a Saviour” – That’s the philosophy that drives them. Anyone who voluntarily donates blood through the organisation is provided with the title of a “Saviour”, along with a certificate stating the details regarding their good deed.

In a free-wheeling chat with me, Kunal shares his motivation behind taking this initiative: “With over 3 million units of blood shortage in India every year, either people are dying for the want of blood or are paying exorbitant price for a single unit. This can range from 5000- 25000 INR, depending upon the availability or the blood type.”

When I ask him how does he plan to get more people sensitized to this reality of blood shortage in the country, he says, “With around 40-50 crore youth population, only if 1-2 % additional youth start donating, this shortage could be eradicated.” It is precisely for this reason that they are trying to get more and more youngsters to register themselves as a voluntary blood donor.

Already in touch with various colleges in the city, Kunal outlines the three ways in which you can help. First and foremost, you can register yourself as a voluntary donor by sending your details (which include your name, blood group, address, contact number, alternative contact number (if any) and your email id) at [email protected] You can also whatsApp the same to 9830148811 or message it to their Facebook page. At present, their operations are restricted to the city of joy, but they are building their database of donors all across the country and look forward to spreading their reach in other parts of the country.

The second level of engagement that you can have with them is by encouraging more and more people to register with them. As an extension of this vision, whenever there is a successful donor arrangement and the beneficiary thanks him, he requests them to ask three more people to register as a donor in order to keep the chain going till we reach a situation that no one dies for shortage of blood. The third level is the one where you can intern with them. They would be choosing a team from various colleges, which would be briefed and trained by them to handle the phone calls and requests. The team would be directly responsible for coordinating with the emergency requests and the donors in the database.

What would Kunal like to say to everyone who is reading this, I ask? “They say “making someone cry with a smile on their faces is the best feeling ever!” Please register with us and save a life. Be the change and belong to the 2% who can actually make a difference to people’s lives”, he says.

An android app named No More Tension has agreed to donate a generous amount of Rs.10 per download to this organization, and swears to bear all the other expenses borne by The Saviours. This is the reason they don’t accept donations from any third party! Are you a Saviour? Be one!

Diwali crackers

By Anshul Tewari:

Diwali crackersSo you had a great Diwali celebration with fire-cracker-bursting sessions with friends, didn’t you? Here’s what – according to a report by The Meteorology Department, Delhi has recorded the highest level of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) pollution post-Diwali this year at 531 mg per cubic metre – more than five times higher than the normal level leaving many at risk of respiratory problems – followed by Kolkata where the suspended particulate matter level was 417 mg per cubic metre and Chennai at 320 mg per cubic metre.

Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter, you ask? RSPM is the microscopic solid or liquid matter suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. The sources for RSPM can be man-made or natural, but with regards to RSPM suspended during Diwali, it is definitely man-made. RSPM can also lead to premature deaths and asthma, which are just a couple of the health issues that backpack themselves along with it.

According to the report, Punjabi Bagh in New Delhi registered the highest level of 194 micrograms per metre cube of nitrogen oxides.

Delhi had registered high levels of  carbon and nitrogen monoxides, and coupled with a wind speed of around 0.3 metres/second the city virtually choked with the escalated air pollution level. The Meteorology Department also added that humidity on Friday oscillated between 50 and 90 percent.

So what does all this mean? Earlier this year, Delhi was named the city with the highest pollution in the world by the World Health Organization. While many people try and justify bursting crackers on Diwali by stating that it is only a one day affair and cannot add much to the existing pollution by industries and cars, the fact is that even a day’s worth of pollution can turn deadly for the health of the city and the country. Just because someone else is doing more bad to health and environment, it does not excuse you to add to it, even if in small quantities.

According to health experts, a few health concerns that Diwali brings along include acute asthma attacks; chronic lung diseases; bronchitis in patients who are allergic, causing severe dry, irritating cough increasing in intensity while speaking and at night; apart from eye and nasal irritation and damage to the eardrums.

Firecrackers are something that many of us look forward to during Diwali. But remember, these few seconds of joy not just hurt the environment, but also cause serious health problems. From the gasses they emit to increasing air pollution (by nearly 30 percent), the toxic air during and post-Diwali is not just dangerous for those with respiratory problems and lung diseases, but also for others.

Well, now that the damage has been done, you might want to pacify yourself by thinking that the pollution levels this Diwali have been less than the 2013 Diwali celebrations, however, they have been equally (if not more) damaging.

So while you move on about your life and the next Diwali arrives, remember that a cleaner Diwali is indeed a happier Diwali for everyone.

body image Issues

By Tanuja Aundhe:

If you’ve been reading the news, you must have seen several pieces about how body image and loving yourself are important. If you’re like me, you may have dismissed it as some sort of hippy-dippy stuff — who on earth loves themselves exactly as they are? There are always details you want to change about yourself, little things you don’t like, like that tum you’ve got there, or that mole, that pimple, or that freckle. You may have issues with the colour of your hair, the size of your cheeks, your mismatched feet (guilty) or whatever. Obviously, each of us has a pet peeve. You simply say ‘different strokes for different folks’, brush it off, and move on.

body image Issues

But, you know, as it turns out, loving yourself isn’t as bad as it seems. It may actually be really good for you.

You’ve seen the advertisements and the videos — the Dove Self-Esteem Project is actually trying to drive that point into people. In a recent TED Talk, their Global Director, Meaghan Ramsey, provided some startling statistics:

1. Women who think they’re overweight, regardless of actual weight, have higher rates of absenteeism.

2. 17% of women would not show up to a job interview on a day when they weren’t feeling confident about the way they look.

3. People who give exams while thinking they don’t look good (specifically, thin) enough, score lower GPAs than those who are not concerned about this, regardless of actual weight. (findings consistent across Finland, US, China.)

4. 10,000 people every month Google ‘am I ugly’.

5. 6 out of 10 girls are now choosing to not do something because they don’t think they look good enough. ‘Something’ not being trivial activities, but are fundamental activities necessary for their development.

6. 31% of teenagers are withdrawing from classroom debate because they don’t want to draw attention to the way they look.

7. 1 in 5 (20%) is not showing up to class at all on days when they don’t feel good about it.

Additionally, as many as 10 million Americans are now struggling with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Though no Indian statistics are available, a 2005 study conducted by the ICMR shows the prevalence of several significant psychosocial factors among Indian children and adolescents. A lot of these factors are triggers for future self-esteem problems and eating disorders.

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Honestly, this is getting beyond ridiculous. Not looking good enough? Why on earth would you miss out because of that? But as these statistics illustrate, that is exactly what is happening. Let’s talk about why.

To begin with, “Self-Image”. I found this on Google:

self image

So, to say this again, the idea that you have of your traits, And I use ‘”traits” broadly — it can be your characteristics, your mannerisms, your habits — everything, including your looks – that’s where the trouble begins.

Because, when your self-image includes your looks, at some point of time, it may become exclusively about your looks. It may just be all about the way you look. And when you notice a blemish, or a fault, or a flaw, it seems more important than it actually is.

And that’s where the problem is! When you centre yourself on a flaw, you make yourself feel imperfect, you make your mind think that you’re an amalgamation of flaws with one or two nice bits. When, of course, it is the exact opposite. You have a few flaws — but who doesn’t have flaws? Who loves themselves for the way they are?

A Google search for ‘self-image’ reveals some utterly terrifying images. You can see some for yourself below:

google self image

See that girl there? Who’s looking in the mirror? You can just feel it. She’s terrified of what the mirror might show her.

And what are the slurs and comments thrown at women daily? They hear ugly/stupid/crazy/dumb/bitch — in short, not good enough. Try again next time. And why? Well, Meaghan gave us some reasons why.

She said that, in these times, during their teen years, admittedly the most vulnerable time of their lives, people start questioning their perception of themselves, whether they are pretty or ugly. But why?

She attributed it to the following reasons:

(a) Teenagers today are rarely alone. They are always available online, and this may be why they are over-connected, through posts, pictures, likes, comments, to people who are actually of no consequence.

(b) Obviously, this leads to no privacy for these teens and makes their life somewhat public. (Speaking of public lives, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, anyone?)

(c) It also makes them value or evaluate themselves based on the kind of feedback they receive from peers online, those oft-mentioned and oft-criticised posters, commenters, likers and viewers.

(d) This plethora of connectivity also means that for teenagers now, there is no separation between online and offline life.

(e) Thus, they cannot differentiate between what is real and virtual, authentic and digitally manipulated.

(f) They already have bad role models available online — trends such as thinspiration, pro-ana, bikini bridge — which are typically full of stereotyping and flagrant objectification of women.

(g) In an image-obsessed culture, we are training our kids to spend more time and mental effort on their appearance at the expense of all other aspects of their identities.

Some research suggests that it may start at even a younger age, when girls are given Barbie dolls to play with — Barbie as an ideal of a perfect young woman is seriously flawed. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sussex in 2006 concluded that thin dolls like Barbie do affect young girls’ body image over time, and indeed, “may damage girls’ body image, which would contribute to an increased risk of disordered eating and weight cycling.”

A YouTube Video also shows how exactly Barbie affects body image. This video also talks about another bit of research, done in 2014, which shows how preschool girls want to be ‘thin’ so that they can look like Barbie. Come on, you’re in preschool!

And it isn’t just dolls and dudes — mothers, too, may play a more important role than they think. Research suggests that a same-sex parent is the most important role model for a child. So, when the kid comes home, and sees momma (or daddy, depends) working out like crazy, abstaining from eating certain foods, going through complicated beauty rituals or painful procedures just so that they look better, it is obvious that they’ll feel inadequate themselves.

In fact, one of the lead designers for Barbie has said that Moms are affecting the children’s body image issues more than their dolls (The whole interview can be found here). Things aren’t helped by people such as the Mom who put her 7-year-old on a diet, then wrote an article in Vogue about it.

And why is a positive self-image important? Obviously, the above statistics show how it matters, but also, it makes you confident, it makes your self-esteem go up, it gives your overall happiness a massive boost. As one HuffPost writer has pointed out, it gives you a glow and a special style of your own.

Well, okay then. We’ve established that people today are pretty screwed up about what they think about themselves — now what can we do about it?

Meaghan offers a range of solutions, grouped under the following heads:

A. Educate for body confidence

Help teens develop strategies to overcome image-related pressures and build their self-esteem. Ensure that programs which are trying to do this have both a positive impact as well as a lasting impact on kids. The best programs address six key areas:

(a) Family, friends and relationships
(b) Teasing and bullying
(c) Talking about appearance
(d) Media and celebrity culture
(e) Competing and comparing looks
(f) Respecting and looking after yourself

B. Be better role models

Challenge the status quo of how women are seen and talked about in our own circles. Start judging people on what they do and not on what they look like. Take responsibility for the types of pictures and comments that we post online. Compliment people based on their effort and actions, and not on appearance.

C. Work together

Communities, families, and governments should all get together to try and combat this problem.

The talk was mainly towards a group of older women, however. What can we do? Follow the above steps. Educate yourself. Be nicer to your younger siblings, to your peers, to your friends. Don’t make catty comments (this isn’t Mean Girls, you know) or unnecessary comparisons. Don’t draw ridiculous comparisons, period. It isn’t really helping either of you all that much. Eat well and eat all that you want. Rujuta Diwekar supports me on that.

And if you feel yourself having a problem, going down a spiral, or even if it’s just a bad hair day, talk. Open up to people. Give it a try. Seek help if you feel that you may be having an eating disorder or a weight issue. Nutritionists and therapists are not that hard to find, you know. A Google search is all it takes.

 

And you know those Barbies? Want to know how they’ll look like in reality? She’d be a crazy tall, crazy thin woman who’d be forced to walk on all fours and won’t be able to lift her neck.

Try the concept of Wabi-Sabi. It is a Japanese philosophy which believes in embracing your faults, taking in your flaws and accepting yourself just the way you are.

Photo Credit

By Deepa Padmanaban:

A 12-point checklist created for airline pilots to check human errors during flying inspired a similar list for Indian health workers, leading, in a test, to a drastic fall in the number of mothers who die during childbirth. The new health checklist, which includes simple procedures, such as washing hands and holding a baby close, is now being tested in one of India’s most backward states, a precursor to possible nationwide adoption.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Our story unfolds through nursing midwife, Ishrawati (she uses only one name), a registered nurse at a primary health centre, providing care before, during and after pregnancy. She plays a key role in the ensuring babies and mothers survive in the eastern Uttar Pradesh town of Baldirai in Sultanpur district, much as thousands of other healthcare staff does across India.

There is much experience that Ishrawati has gained in the field, but there were some important things she did not know about, until recently; for instance, the importance of checking the blood pressure of a mother at admission and after delivery. High blood-pressure is a sign of eclampsia. Left untreated, it causes seizures, convulsions and commonly kills pregnant women, and is responsible for 24% of all maternal deaths in India.

Now, thanks to the World Health Organisation (WHO) safe childbirth checklist, Ishrawati checks the mother’s blood-pressure before and after admission. There are other seemingly simple things on the 31-point checklist that have helped Ishrawati improve her efficiency and ensure fewer deaths: keep the delivery tray ready with thermometer, blood-pressure cuff, gloves and medications. It has taught her to provide skin-to-skin care to newborns immediately after birth; it helps keep babies warm and safe.

Ishrawati’s renewed skills are part of a trial programme called ‘Better Birth’, being conducted in about 120 primary health care centres and hospitals in UP, a state with high maternal mortality (MMR), a prime indicator of the state’s—and India’s—backwardness. The programme aims to improve maternal and infant survival rates by having healthcare providers follow a checklist.

The UP trial is led by Atul Gawande, surgeon and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, author of three bestselling books and staff writer at the New Yorker. “Improving the quality of childbirth care in facilities is critical, but we have not known how to do it effectively. Classroom training does not produce behaviour change. We think onsite coaching and use of a checklist can make a major improvement and save lives. We are hoping to prove it,” said Dr. Gawande in an email interview to Indiaspend.org.

The trial is supported by the Gates foundation and run by the Harvard School of Public Health, in collaboration with the UP government, PSI, Community Empowerment Laboratory and WHO.

“UP is one of the most challenging states to work in,” said Atul Kapoor, CEO of non-profit Population Service International (PSI), one of the collaborators in UP, which has the second-worst record of mothers dying during childbirth of any Indian state. “If it works here, then it can be scaled up to the entire nation.”

In 2012, a six-month study conducted in Karnataka by Harvard, WHO and Karnataka’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College reported a dramatic decline in the MMR after a 150% rise in adherence to the checklist. The number of mothers who died for every 100,000 live births fell by more than 62%, from 203 to 126, according to results published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The practices, so successful in Karnataka and now being tested in UP, are modelled on a simple check list created for pilots and co-pilots. It includes step-wise instructions for use at four critical junctures in care during birth: at the time the woman is admitted, when the woman begins to push or before caesarean, within one hour after birth, and before discharge.

India has seen a significant decline in the MMR. It fell 16% on average across India in 2011-12, when 178 women died during every 100,000 live births, from 2007-09, when 212 died.

But this decline is considered inadequate, and—even if new techniques and practices, such as the checklist, are quickly implemented—there is little chance that states such as UP will achieve the United Nations’ millennium development goal (MDG) of 103 deaths for 100,000 live births by 2015.

Uttar Pradesh (and Uttarakhand) occupied second-last position on the list of states, with 292 deaths. The last position went to Assam with 328 deaths. It may be more realistic for the southern states, which saw their MMR fall to 105, to reach the UN’s targets.

Every year, about 70,000 women die during childbirth, and more than 1 million infants die during the neonatal period, nearly a month after birth, according to WHO estimates.

Between 1990 and 2012, the world neonatal mortality rate fell by almost a third, from 33 deaths to 21 for every thousand live births. However, the decline has fallen behind the rate of post-neonatal mortality. As a result, the proportion of deaths occurring in the first 28 days of life has increased, from 37% in 1990 to 44 per cent in 2012. In India, the infant mortality rate dropped to 37.7% in 2013 from 85.5% in 1990.

Kapoor said the UP programme is a “randomized control trial”, where researchers will observe up to 180,000 child births to see if birth practices can be improved through the check list.

The programme, currently rolled out in 30 facilities, will be completed by the end of 2015 after which it will be conducted in another 90 facilities, ending by 2017.

Kapoor said the trial will indicate if it is “impacting the birth attendant’s behaviour, and thereby improving maternal and newborn health”. In healthcare institutions where human resources are scarce, health workers are often burdened and unable to keep pace, as more women are now giving birth in institutional facilities. “The check list basically acts as a reminder, reducing the burden on the health care worker and helps offer better quality of care.” said Kapoor

This ground-up re-engineering of health practices is important because India does much worse than countries that are wracked by greater poverty, war and instablity. Mothers die giving birth in India at a rate that exceeds, among scores of others, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Guatemala, Iraq, Namibia, Fiji, and Botswana.

Globally, the MMR dropped by 45 per cent between 1990 and 2013, from 380 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, this still falls far short of the MDG target to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015.

Most maternal and newborn deaths in India are due to “usual causes”, said Mathews Mathai, coordinator of epidemiology, monitoring and evaluation at the WHO’s Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. “For the mother, these are excessive bleeding, complications due to high blood pressure, infections, prolonged and obstructed labour and unsafe abortion, while for the newborn, these are birth asphyxia, prematurity and infection.”

Maternal and newborn deaths are more common in rural, remote, poor, disadvantaged and marginalised populations, where access to skilled care during childbirth and immediately after birth, the key to maternal and newborn survival, are unavailable or not satisfactory, Mathai said. Care during the first 24 hours after birth, particularly in labour, and delivery care with high-impact interventions for emergencies is important to ensure maternal and newborn survival.

So, it is important to UP and India that nurse midwives like Ishrawati get the basics right. The checklist continues: nurses experienced in all the techniques must train the newer ones, wear gloves, check temperature and—the simplest—wash their hands with soap and water.

About the author: Deepa Padmanaban is a Bangalore-based journalist)
Visualisations by Chaitanya Mallapur

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This article was originally published by IndiaSpend.

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By Katyayini Kabir Kakar:

A new movement is slowly taking over the beauty brigade of the world. It’s the era of theNo poo. The latest fad in the lives of natural product apologists, it’s all about ditching the shampoo and going au-naturel. Yes, they do wash their hair, not with store bought formulations, packed deceptively in shiny bottles, but with stuff picked up from the food aisle of grocery stores. The thought behind it being – if it’s good enough to eat, it will definitely be safe for your precious locks.

Incidentally, the word shampoo is derived from the Hindi word ‘champu’, which means ‘to press and knead’.The earliest known hair wash ingredients were not sulfate laden solutions, but plants and herbs picked from the nature’s lap. But the dawn of the 20th century brought with itself a society which promoted rampant consumerism and created a culture of luxury and consumption. Shampoos are said to contain chemical additives such as sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, fragrances, parabens, 1,4-dioxane, amongst others, which are known to be skin irritants. By stripping the natural oils (sebum) off the scalp, they cause the scalp to produce more oil to compensate for the loss. Thus creating a vicious cycle of shampoo-rinse-repeat.

shampoo info

The ‘no poo’ method uses baking soda instead of shampoo, and apple cider vinegar rinse as a conditioner. Baking soda removes grease and dirt, and the vinegar conditions and adds a shine. This inexpensive method is getting rave reviews as more and more people are waking up to the fact that their shampoos are doing more harm than good. There is also the ‘low poo method’, which is a fairly less adventurous method, for those who do not wish to give up on shampoos completely. ‘The low poo method involves the use of gentler shampoo bars, which are made from vegan ingredients and are sulfate free. These bars are prepared from an old-fashioned formulae, which makes these all-natural bath products safe to use. Some prominent shampoo bars are by the English companies – Lush and JR Liggett’s and the American ‘Chagrin Valley’.

no poo1

Proponents of the method have also formed support groups on social networking sites to help old followers and guide new converts. One such group is the No poo and low poo haircare group on Facebook. With over 12,000+ members, this community has people from all over the world, sharing problems, exchanging solutions and more. With tons of success stories being posted everyday, one can see that the no-poo family just keeps growing. If this is the beginning of a new era or just a passing fad, only time will tell. Till then, do try out and decide for yourself which side are you on. Poo or No Poo?

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