Health strategies to focus on resource utilisation

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 12. The Union Health Minister, Dr. C. P. Thakur, said here on Wednesday that the accent of health strategies would be on effective utilisation of resources and promoting appropriate help-seeking behaviour in the general population.

Dr. Thakur, who commissioned the prototype of the indigenously developed brachytherapy equipment developed by the Regional Cancer Centre, pointed out that health policy should be attuned to the epidemiological transition taking place in India, as it was in South East Asian countries.

According to Dr. Thakur, morbidity patterns and the burden of disease was fast changing, particularly in societies with increased life expectancy. He pointed out that among diseases associated with advancing of age, while 10 million cancer cases were recorded in 1996 of which 6 million had died, 57 per cent of all new cases had surfaced in developing countries. And according to projections for the year 2015, new cases were expected to touch 15 million of which two-thirds would be from developing countries.

In India, there are around 2.5 million cancer cases at any given moment with the number of new cases being around 0.8 million. The importance of prevention was increasing in this context which was why the focus in the Plan was as much on information, education and communication activities as on resource utilisation and promoting early and appropriate help-seeking responses.

At the same time there was a pressing need to develop radiotherapy facilities at primary and secondary-level and to correct the geographical imbalances in the availability of radiotherapy facilities, the Minister said.

According to Dr. Thakur, while there has been considerable advances in reduction of infant and maternal mortality rates and eradication of diseases like small pox, other serious diseases such as Tuberculosis and AIDS continued to pose a threat. Reaching safe drinking water and nutritive food remained a challenge not only to those who could not afford it but to sections unaware of their significance as well, he said.

The Chief Minister, Mr. E. K. Nayanar, underscored the relevance of institutions in providing tertiary care facilities as the huge investments required for such establishments was beyond the means of the State.

Dr. M. Krishnan Nair, RCC Director, said the institution was on the threshold of developing an active anti-cancer drug. The project to launch telemedicine connecting peripheral centres through a computer network was in the final stages, he said.

According to Dr. Krishnan Nair, the RCC's motto was to avoid all cancers as far as possible and to catch cancers early, spread preventive education and provide palliation to the terminally ill.

The Speaker, Mr. M. Vijayakumar, Health Minister, Mr. V. C. Kabeer, the Thiruvananthapuram Mayor, Mr. V. Sivankutty, Mr. V. S. Sivakumar, MP, Prof. V. S. Ramamurthy, Union Secretary, Department of Science and Technology, and Mr. V. Vijayachandran, Health Secretary were among those who spoke on the occasion.

Dr. Thakur handed over to the technology transfer document to Mr. G. V. Subramonium, Managing Director, Panacea Medical Technologies, Ltd., Bangalore, which had supported the project.

He also distributed certificates of merit to Mr. Thayal Singh Elias, Chief, Brachytherapy project, and Dr. Thomas Koiparambil, who designed the Austral-Asian Journal of Cancer.

Earlier, Mr. Elias presented a report on the Brachytherapy Remote Afterloading System, which costs only around Rs. 30 lakhs compared to the imported versions which costs around Rs. one crore. The equipment could drastically cut costs in treatment of uterine cancer.

The Union Minister for Health, Dr. C.P.Thakur, who commissioned the indigenously developed brachytherapy equipment at the Regional Cancer Centre, in the city on Wednesday, shares a lighter moment with the Chief Minister, Mr. E.K. Nayanar. Accompanying them are the Speaker, Mr. M. Vijayakumar and the Health Minister, Mr. V.C. Kabeer.