Health Matters | In search of freedom from malaise

This week in health: an India-made MRI scanner, challenges of people living with ALS and a watershed moment in cell biology.

Updated - August 16, 2023 09:11 am IST

Published - August 15, 2023 04:18 pm IST

Image for representational purpose only

Image for representational purpose only | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

It is practically nigh possible to ignore the tricolour or the passions it whips up in people of this country. On the 76th Independence Day, the sense of freedom and inclusivity in this multi-dimensional country are being put through the wringer, and what emerges will determine the future of the world’s most populous country. It might be fanciful to dream, simultaneously of a world free from disease and ill health, but to move towards the goal of providing health care for all those who should require it must be the path of any government. Increasingly these days, it is also necessary for States to be cognizant of the impact that climate change brings and be prepared to address these challenges as well.

HerePradeep Guin and Indranil Mukhopadhyay, discuss the vulnerability of urban households to climate change-led events needs attention in India. 

Meanwhile, the results of a study by two NGOs in Tamil Nadu found several environmental and pollution issues affecting villagers in and around the two power stations in Chennai’s Neyveli and Cuddalore

An impasse continues in the area, as the tussle between further mining of lignite beds comes into conflict with growing crops. 

In Karnataka, the National Human Rights Commission has asked the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board to test water and soil samples of areas affected by the spraying of endosulfan pesticides in the coastal belt long ago and submit a report by finding out whether the residues of pesticides still present.

Pathways of antibiotic-resistance dissemination. Photo Credit: “Association between particulate matter (PM)2·5 air pollution and clinical antibiotic resistance: a global analysis” (Lancet Planetary Health, August 2023)

Pathways of antibiotic-resistance dissemination. Photo Credit: “Association between particulate matter (PM)2·5 air pollution and clinical antibiotic resistance: a global analysis” (Lancet Planetary Health, August 2023)

Another study has warned of the link between air pollution and the rise of antibiotic resistance, Saumya Kalia notes. A new analysis published in the Lancet Planetary Journal suggests a link between the two: for every 10% rise in air pollution, researchers found a correlated increase in antibiotic resistance of 1.1% across countries and continents.

If bringing nurses to the Independence Day celebration at Red Fort as special guests was a symbolic gesture, the true measure that the government intends to do well by them can be seen in the Parliament passing the National Nursing and Midwifery Commission (NNMC) Bill, 2023 and National Dental Commission Bill, 2023. The legislations seek to bring in much-needed reforms in nursing and dental education and bring in greater transparency, the government has claimed. 

Staying on the same page, did you know that doctors can refuse to treat in case of unruly patients? Apparently so, as per the new NMC regulations. Given the number of reported incidents of violence against the medical community, no wonder then that the NMC has factored this into the picture, says Bindu Shajan Perappadan. It also says that doctors can refuse to treat patients if the agreed-upon fees are not paid up, but that is a true minefield in these days of rising hospitalisation costs. 

A study showed how targeted sensitising of health workers to transgender women, gay men and their rights made a huge difference to the way health care was delivered, records Serena Josephine M

Just past last week, World Breastfeeding Week was all about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, but then there were a few issues that had to be addressed too at that point, pertaining to the welfare of women. Here, Zubeda Hamid discusses how important sleep is for new mothers. 

But it is not just pregnant women that need care, Saumya Kalia turns the spotlight here, in the first part of a three-part series on how, for women, diabetes screening and diagnosis come with in-built challenges. Stay tuned for the two other parts too.

This past week saw the revelation of the results of a very critical trial that was done in India which established conclusively that nutrition support prevents TB, and related deaths. In case you are intrigued, R. Prasad explains in detail about the RATIONS trial and the hope it holds out for patients who have tuberculosis and their families. 

It’s probably not commonly known, but it is possible that adults are diagnosed as neurodivergent, for the first time. How did folks miss seeing this in childhood? Menaka Ramanhere, examines the situation of people who were diagnosed with ADHD or autism in adulthood. How does one navigate family, life and work with a new identity? Even as an increase in awareness and easier access to information have more adults signing up for assessment, experts and the ND community weigh in on life with an adulthood diagnosis. For yet another true-life story, read this too, Surya Praphulla Kumar talks of how an adulthood autism diagnosis is helping John Paul Scotto come to terms with a lifelong struggle of feeling different

Do not miss the first of the two-part series on the many challenges of living with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), and the unexpected burdens of the family and caregivers, by Gautam Doshi. 

Here’s some information on research from Afshan Yasmeen that will actually help the implementation of field-level health programmes. Researchers from St. John’s Medical College, in collaboration with WHO-India, have designed and released a software tool to aid in designing appropriate, diversified and economical supplementary nutrition provisions for the Government’s Integrated Child Development Services. They are not the only ones at it though, the Department of Computer Science in Vidyavardhaka College of Engineering, Mysuru, has developed an app, “PoshanMeal Tracker”, for tracking and assessing the impact of midday meals in government schools.

Moving on to innovations, Jacob Koshy writes that the first India-made MRI scanner is to be launched for clinical work in October. For an Independence Day week, it’s appropriate some country pride is given attention.

Remaining with the tech angle, this time, it’s AI. AI-driven research by an eye hospital finds low Vitamin D and those with allergies are at high risk of developing the infection. Meanwhile, on the flip side of technology, NIMHANS found that parental behaviour was closely associated with adolescents’ excessive internet use. That thing they say about looking in the mirror first. 

There is no saying goodbye this week, without recording the fact that the WHO classified ERIS, the latest COVID strain as a ‘variant of interest’. It is a grim reminder that COVID-wise the world has not heard the final song. Here, Siddharth Kumar Singh reports that doctors urge people to stay vigilant against COVID-19 variant.

In this week’s tailpiece, let’s look further at freedoms. If freedom indicates freedom from biases, this last week was a key watershed movement in the ethics of research and cell biology. 70 years ago, Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells were taken without her permission and they went on to be immortal, dividing without senescence, without death. Her family remained impoverished and had no agency in how her cells were used. That was set right, in a sense, I write, after biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific came to an agreement with the family for payment of an unnamed sum. Do read here

From the Health pages

If you have time, then do tarry a moment on the following pieces:

Sudanese seek help as conflicts back home intensify record Suhasini Haidar and Maitri Porecha.

Explained | How One Health can help India respond better to health crises by Irfan Shakeer.

Metagenome sequencing is transforming pathogen surveillance by Sridhar Sivasubbu and Vinod Scaria.

Can’t be forced to do the work of chemists or prescribe poor quality drugs to patients: IMA.

National Medical Commission lists drugs which can be sold without prescription.

WHO Director-General to inaugurate first ever global summit on traditional medicine.

Here’s more than a smattering of health coverage from our different centres:

Andhra Pradesh

Cancer care centres at Kurnool and Kadapa will be ready by October-end, says Andhra Pradesh Health Minister records Tharun Boda.

Effective treatment during the ‘golden hour’ will help avoid physical disability, loss of life, says official.


28 schoolchildren in Delhi hospitalised after mid-day meal; Mayor blames gas leak, BJP alleges food poisoning, reports Mehul Malpani.


Karnataka reported more than 45,000 teen pregnancies from January 2020 to June 2023: RTI reply, says Laiqh Khan A.

In gastroenteritis outbreak, 12 fall ill in Karnataka’s Chitradurga village.


Health-care persons’ protection Bill sent to subject committee in Kerala.

Botched’ surgery at Kozhikode Hospital: action panel sees conspiracy behind medical board decision.


After 18 deaths in 24 hours, non-serious patients were shifted from Thane Hospital to another facility.


Government nurses in Puducherry abstain from work, stage protest.

Tamil Nadu

Help at hand for students who want to pursue medical education in Uzbekistan by R. Sujatha

Would never clear the NEET exemption Bill; it is here to stay, says Tamil Nadu Governor Ravi.

Mother’s milk bank of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital tops in terms of beneficiaries, collection, reports Wilson Thomas. 

Experts call for increased awareness called for blood stem cell, bone marrow donation.


Only 12 registered clinical psychologists in Telangana over the last three years says Siddharth Kumar Singh.

As always, 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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