Hoping that Japan would come out of the nuclear crisis that is now threatening the country, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said it was imperative that resource-constrained countries should build capacities to resiliently face such disasters.

“This is all the more important for the people in South East Asia because as a region, we are far more vulnerable to the vagaries of nature. This vulnerability coupled with the fact that as a region, we still suffer overwhelmingly from the burden of communicable [diseases], is the greater challenge confronting our health planners and our governments,’’ he said, while inaugurating a three day conference on ‘Partners for Health’ organised by the World Health Organisation.

The tsunami that barrelled into Japan, is also a rude reminder to all of us, that natural disasters can, in minutes, wipe out any progress made towards improving the living standards and lifestyles of our people. In the aftermath of such disasters, diseases strike with impunity, he said.

Countries that have the resources are able to mitigate the after effects. Resource-constrained countries resort to symptomatic mitigation largely driven by international aid. Therefore, it is imperative that we build capacities in our countries and communities to resiliently face such disasters, he said.

Progress on MDG

Pointing out that India had made impressive progress on millennium development goal (MDG) –VI as against a projected figure of 5 million HIV/AIDS patients in the country, the current numbers are 2.3 million and these numbers have started showing a declining trend. “I state with immense satisfaction that under the infectious disease control programme, we have been able to avert more than 2 million deaths on account of tuberculosis with the scaling up of Directly Observed Therapy, Short course (DOTS) programme. As against the MDG target of mortality reduction by 50 per cent, we already have achieved a 68 per cent reduction. “We are now concentrating our energies on those districts that have yet to achieve the international benchmark of 70 per cent case detection and 85 per cent cure rate. DOTS Plus for the management of Multi Drug Resistant TB has now been rolled out in the country,” the Minister said.

As for the non communicable diseases, for the first time, home based care and visits at the community health centre level would be made available for cancer, cardio vascular diseases, stroke and diabetes. Similarly, for diabetes and hypertension, screening of over 70 million adult population (30 years and above) and pregnant women of all age group and juvenile children would be undertaken which would eventually cover the entire country. This is perhaps the largest such exercise in the world, Mr. Azad said.

Under the overall umbrella of the National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardio Vascular Diseases and Stroke, behaviour changes would be attempted in the community in over 100,000 villages to adopt healthy life styles.

“Increased medical human resource and quality infrastructure could be unproductive if the medicines, consumables and diagnostics are unaffordable. We, therefore, have to work in unison to aggressively produce good quality and low cost diagnostics, vaccines and drugs,” Mr Azad said.

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