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Project to address health needs of fisherfolk

By Roy Mathew

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 20. The Integrated Coastal Health Project, proposed to be taken up by the Government at a cost of Rs. 98.47 crores, will address special health problems of the fishing community in the coastal areas of the State.

The project proposes strengthening of human resources for healthcare and infrastructure development, including strengthening of referral centres such as district hospitals and medical colleges in the coastal districts. Provision has also been made for basic support facilities such as safe drinking water and sanitation.

The objectives of the project, to be carried out in five years, include providing good quality health services, strengthening preventive health services and improving access to primary healthcare. The project will also address higher morbidity among coastal population manifested by higher incidence of water-borne diseases, malnutrition and chronic diseases. This will be done through primary prevention (nutrition education and accident prevention) and secondary prevention through access to medical facilities. Steps will be taken to predict natural calamities and the consequent epidemics. Community-level social insurance will be established to prevent impoverisation and indebtness in the event of catastrophic health calamity among this marginalised community.

The project also aims at establishing of creative linkages between non-governmental organisations, private institutions and the health system.

A project organisation and a coastal health implementation unit under the Principal Secretary (Health) will be set up to carry out the project. There will also be a health project committee with the Director of Health Services and Director of Medical Education as conveners. The direct delivery of the services for the people will be through the healthcare institutions under the Health Services Department. The medical colleges to heath centres in the fishing villages will provide extension services. The reorientation of medial education programme and integrated teaching programme in community medicine departments and extension services of the community oncology division of the Regional Cancer Centre will be oriented towards this.

The project also proposes mass treatment of the population with diethyl carbamazine citrate (DEC) to reduce prevalence of filariasis, though the advisability of mass administration of the drug is under consideration of an expert committee. Trained anganwadi workers and Kudumbasree health volunteers will be used to ensure effective antenatal and postnatal coverage, including that for family planning services.

Special sanitation-cum-garbage clearance drive and diarrhoea and cholera prevention campaigns will be organised under the project in the pre-monsoon and monsoon period. Adolescent healthcare and counselling against substance abuse will also be part of the programme. Facilities will be provided for early detection and management of diseases such as cancer and AIDS.

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