Contrasting health a headache for developing India

April 6th, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Anbumani Ramadoss
(April 7 is World Health Day)
By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) India is a study in medical contrast. On one hand nearly half of its children are malnourished and on the other it has been dubbed as the diabetic capital of the world, with too much intake of junk food and trans-fats being blamed for the disease.
“We have a lot of tasks at hand. Like a developing country we are yet to do away with infectious diseases and like a developed country we are battling lifestyle diseases,” Health Secretary Naresh Dayal told IANS in an interview.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India is home to over 36 million diabetic patients, constituting 20 percent of the world diabetic population.

The global health watchdog has said that an estimated 180 million people worldwide have diabetes and nearly 1.1 million people succumbed to the ailment in 2005.

“The growing number of children suffering from diabetes is alarming. The problem is young Indians are slowly getting affected by lifestyle diseases,” said Anoop Misra, head of the department of diabetes, Fortis Healthcare.

He said the growing popularity of junk food, intake of trans-fats, high calorie but low protein diet and sedentary lifestyles were the main reasons for the spread of the disease.

“Lifestyle related diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardio vascular diseases are afflicting India. India is also facing the old world problems of malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and diarrhoea,” said Anthony J. McMichael, a health scientist associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

While millions of Indians are dying because of cardiac problems, cancer and tuberculosis, anaemia and malnutrition are a major threat to a large chunk of country’s population.

India is the number one country in tuberculosis and polio prevalence in the world and occupies the third position in terms of people with HIV positive status.

In a recent report, Unicef has said that every year 2.1 million children in India do not survive to celebrate their fifth birthday. The State of the World’s Children 2008 report revealed that India accounts for over 20 percent of deaths of children under five.

“What is more shocking is that 25 percent of children dying (worldwide) before the 20th day after their birth are from India,” the world body said.

“I am facing a problem of contrasts. Many of our school students are becoming obese and at the same time millions of our children are underweight,” Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had told IANS earlier.

“We have been dubbed as the diabetic capital at a time when tens of thousands of our women are anaemic,” he said.

Ramadoss, however, said the world should not forget about the country’s huge geography. “India is like a combination of many European countries and has one- sixth of the world population,” he said.

The contrast is also evident in terms of healthcare workers. The Planning Commission has said that Indian doctors and nurses are in great demand overseas while underlining that there is a shortage of nearly 600,000 doctors, one million nurses and 200,000 dental surgeons in India.

Yet it is also the leading country whose physicians are working in major developed nations. Nearly five percent of the total doctor workforce in the US and Britain are of Indian origin.

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