Nearly 46 per cent of the children are under-nourished, says expert
VIJAYAWADA: “We have nothing to celebrate as far as public health system is concerned,” according to K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India.
Speaking at a function here after receiving the 19th annual award of Dr. Pinnamaneni and Smt. Seethadevi Foundation, Dr. Reddy churned out abysmal statistics to drive home his point that the policy-makers at the helm of affairs needed to look at public health from a human angle. “Health must be recognised as human right. Policy changes do not come easily but we must collectively work to realise the dream of health for all,” he reiterated.
Seeking to draw people’s attention at the poor health status of our children, the eminent cardiologist said that nearly 46 per cent of the children were under-nourished. A large population of anaemic children between 6 and 35 months was yet another area of concern. “Over the years, we have witnessed only a negligible improvement,” he lamented.
The immunisation status also was more or less similar. Compared to Sri Lanka, a strife-torn nation that managed to register a 99 per cent improvement even in the worst of times, India was lagging behind.
Expressing serious concern over the increasing number of cardio-vascular diseases, the former head of the department of cardiology at AIIMS, Delhi, said most people blame it on genetic factors. “We are mainly worried about pre-mature deaths in India on this count. In 140 villages of East Godavari and West Godavari districts, 32 per cent of deaths could be attributed to cardio-vascular problems and 40 per cent of the deceased were below 40 years.
We are losing people at their prime productive stage. India had lost 9.2 million potentially productive lives in 2000. No country that aspires for accelerated development can afford this haemorrhage of productivity,” he maintained.
Dr. Reddy said ills like hyper-tension were affecting a large population. Referring to an abnormal swell in the number of diabetes cases, especially in metro cities, he said India was the diabetic capital of the world. “At least one million people die every year due to tobacco-related diseases. We need to look at social conditions and other determinants of health that cause these diseases.”
About the high infant mortality rate in India, Dr. Reddy said that with great difficulty, it could be brought down to 55 per cent.
He pointed to the sharp contrast of statistical figures between rural and urban, state from state and male and female population. “This only proves that we need to address social equity issues,” he emphasised.
Dr. Reddy opined that the solution for uncontrolled neglected diseases lay within the health sector. Policies must be responsive to public health.
Inadequate infrastructure in primary health centres that were woefully short of human resources paralysed the health system. Most of the public expenditure on health was ‘out of pocket’. “We are pushing people to purchase unaffordable health care,” he rued. Stating that universal health care was the right mantra, Dr. Reddy underscored the need of ‘change in the mindset’ of people.
Gullapalli N. Rao, chairman of the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute presided. The award was presented by C. Nageswara Rao and C. Sudha, trustees of the foundation.