Communicable diseases a major health challenge: Minister

December 21st, 2011 - 5:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) Calling communicable diseases a “major public health challenge”, union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Wednesday said various socio-economic and environmental reasons underlie the growing burden of communicable diseases.

“Communicable diseases pose a major public health challenge for India. The country is vulnerable to emerging and re-emerging diseases because of the existing environmental, socio-economic and demographic situation,” Azad said speaking at a meeting of the health ministry’s consultative committee of parliament

The minister said that while “note-worthy” success had been registered during the 11th Five Year Plan, the 12th Plan aims to address several public health challenges to control communicable diseases.

“The 12th Five Year Plan aims to address several public health challenges, such as ensuring primary health care to all including the urban slum population; strengthening of health care infrastructure; increasing public health workforce; strengthening disease surveillance and response systems; formulation and enforcement of appropriate public health laws and increasing public health allocation and spending,” said Azad.

Several members expressed serious concerns over the increase in Japanese encephalitis cases.

According to ministry figures, 5,149 acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) cases and 677 deaths were reported across India in 2010. Of these, there were 565 cases and 110 deaths due to Japanese encephalitis in 11 states.

The members suggested preventive programmes and a coordinated approach to tackle communicable diseases. Awareness campaigns on Doordarshan and All India Radio were also suggested along with allocation of funds for local health ‘melas’.

As per health ministry figures, the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) is about 266 cases per lakh people and 23 persons die because of TB.

About 1.5 million cases of malaria with 30,000 deaths annually are reported. About 40 million persons infected with filaria, one-third of global cases, live in India and about 129 million are at risk of ‘kala-azar’ (leishmaniasis) in 52 endemic districts mostly in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Figures also show nearly 1,26,800 new cases of leprosy were reported in 2010 which is nearly half of global numbers, and more than 300 million episodes of acute diarrhoea occur every year in India in children below 5 years of age.

The minister said inter-sectoral coordination was important for controlling spread of communicable diseases.

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