Health Matters | The best of times, the worst of times

This week in Health Matters: a potential new cannabis drug, what stress does to gut health and Peru’s worst dengue outbreak. 

Updated - July 04, 2023 01:29 pm IST

Published - June 13, 2023 12:19 pm IST

Image for representational purpose only.

Image for representational purpose only. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

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There’s never been a better time to talk about technology, there’s never been a worse time to talk about technology’s role in our lives. As conversations are dominated by prophecies about the myriad ways in which AI will usurp human jobs, and how wearables will make things simpler for us, it’s also a sobering moment to wonder about how secure our information is online. The latest health controversy in the country is the reported leak of CoWIN data, where a messaging bot put personal information about people and their IDs out in the public domain. While the Health Ministry insists that CoWIN data had not been hacked into and that the information is from a ‘previously stolen’ database, it is nevertheless not reassuring that personal data, not voluntarily revealed, is out there.   

Technology makes things simple for us, but also makes us vulnerable. 

In a continuous underlining of the tenacious link between climate phenomena and health or life in general, this week saw projections that Peru’s worst dengue outbreak on record could intensify further as an El Niño climate phenomenon brings torrential rains and mosquitoes, driving the death toll this year past 200 with over 1,30,000 recorded cases. Clearly, health interventions cannot afford to not factor in the climate change paradigm.

India’s first and arguably most comprehensive study on the prevalence of diabetes (a non-communicable disease) threw up some results this week, some expected, others quite shocking, indicating that, either way, action on prevention is imperative.  The ICMR-INDAB study estimated that 11% of India’s population (101.3 million people) was diabetic while 15.3% (136 million) could be pre-diabetic. 

Results further revealed that the burden of NCDs could be higher than anticipated, based on an analysis of obesity, hypertension and excessive cholesterol. Further, this paper, touted to be among the most comprehensive covering all the States of India, estimated that the highest prevalence of diabetes was found in Goa (26.4%), Puducherry and Kerala (nearly 25%). Besides it warned that in the future, the relatively lower prevalence of diabetes was bound to change. 

The psychosomasis, or the link between mental and physical health, was re-emphasised with a recent study that showed stress had a role to play in gut health.  “Mental health profoundly impacts inflammatory responses in the body. This is particularly apparent in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in which psychological stress is associated with exacerbated disease flares,” the study concluded. Is the trick to somehow channelise inner peace, then? 

A simple act of providing piped water supply across India will avert 4,00,000 diarrheal deaths, the WHO said this week. Not that nations are not aware, but it is definitely reassurance that simple fix governance related solutions still work, astonishingly well. 

Animal studies and human clinical trials reportedly found a potential new drug that could facilitate the treatment of cannabis addiction. Given that Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the world, and 19.5% of those who have used cannabis develop a cannabis use disorder, this can only be good news. 

From the Health pages

If you have a few extra moments today, do stop by these links: 

Is male reproduction in humans more egalitarian by mammalian standards?

Scientists document how space travel messes with the human brain

Research shows India can shorten tuberculosis treatment

Bharat Biotech recalls typhoid vaccine batch owing to substandard quality

Do put us on your radar, as we bring more health content your way. Get more of The Hindu’s health coverage here.

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