We are not really afraid of typhoid, tuberculosis, leptospirosis, diabetes, HIV, malaria and a host of other infectious and non infectious diseases which are flourishing in our country.
The apathy towards the basic issues in health care is really appalling. Why should we be afraid of swine flu alone? The medical profession is busy and happy treating diseases, confining to its own insulated and comfortable compartments. I happened to read with concern the comments made by s ome that we are not equipped to face the threat of swine flu, as if we are already well equipped to face the threat of all other communicable diseases; they go on to assert that the problems we face are due to lack of dedicated infectious disease departments and dearth of WHO-trained doctors in the medical colleges of Kerala.
A matter of approach
It is true that we need infectious disease units in each medical college, like the ones we already have; but the only problem is that we do not have an adequate number of doctors to spare to improve the services, to do research and surveillance.
The issue can be solved easily by posting a few more doctors for this purpose alone rather than hunting for WHO-trained doctors. Why not the existing system be made to tackle the problem by reorienting and reorganising than compartmentalising? In health care (no disease care), there is only doctor-oriented planning and implementation and no community-oriented planning.
A properly trained MBBS doctor or even an educated person with common sense and some training is more than enough to manage the threat of any public health issue. The general medicine department of any medical college can easily tackle all these if they have a few more doctors and isolation wards. We ignore health care and literally manufacture disease of all colour and shades, and finally we have a museum of all diseases. We have already become the diabetic capital of the world, and now we are trying to overtake Sub Saharan Africa to win the first place in the number of AIDS cases, malnutrition and environment-related infections, which produce more morbidity and mortality than swine flu.
The developed countries are worried since they have controlled all infections by proper waste management, safe drinking water and good nutrition for all and press the panic button the moment they come across any one of them.
They would have shown similar panic if typhoid, viral hepatitis, leptosirosis or TB occur in much lesser numbers than we see in India. Why are we not similarly worried about these diseases which kill several thousands annually? Let us not panic merely to show that we are also developed and evolved.
The basic issues
All communicable diseases are flourishing here because of lack of basic health amenities, malnutrition, poor environmental hygiene, unsafe drinking water, etc. People are now exposed to unchecked consumerist forces promoting lifestyle disorders with an even greater impact on us.
One more world environment day had passed — we behaved like the developed world by planting one or two trees here and there and having a talk on ozone layer and green house effect and that is it. We overlook environmental issues like poor waste management and unsafe drinking water everywhere.
We always ignore basic issues and go for knee-jerk reactions to appear big in front of developed countries. We need to do some homework and introspect and bring well-meaning leaders with a vision for the people on top of every system and make changes to achieve health and prosperity and then start panicking at problems like swine flu. We must try to achieve good environmental hygiene and provide safe drinking water for everyone.
We must prioritise and spend on health care first and then on disease care.
(The writer is Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calicut)