Women’s health could do with a shot in the arm

Staff Reporter

Sector yet to benefit from de-centralisation, say experts

Call to tackle health issues at micro level

Food habits, sedentary lifestyle causing problems

Thiruvananthapuram: De-centralisation was a process which led to major changes in all social sectors in Kerala in recent times. However, the State’s public health machinery and the health activists seem to have failed to take advantage of this process to deliver better services to the people at the grassroots, said V. Ramankutty, public health activist and faculty, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies.

Speaking at a discussion on Public Health System and Women, organised by Kerala Sthreevedi here recently, he pointed out that de-centralisation of health sector is an opportunity that the health workers and local bodies should use to tackle health issues at micro level.

The status of health in Kerala presents a pretty picture when measured against indices like infant or maternal mortality. However, the recent public health challenges faced by the State is a pointer to the fact that it is the social determinants of health such as the state of the environment, development policies, lifestyle and food security, which presents the true picture of people’s health, pointed out Aleyamma Vijayan, coordinator, Sakhi Women’ Resource Centre and a health activist.

Women’s health continued to be defined as reproductive health issues. Other health problems faced by women, including anaemia, malnutrition, lifestyle disorders and social issues like alcoholism of the spouse or domestic violence, which have great impact on a woman’s mental and physical health, are yet to be addressed by policy makers, she added.

Unhealthy food habits and sedentary lifestyle have contributed to Kerala being way ahead of the national average in heart diseases, diabetes and hypertension. According to the figures in the Economic Review, released by the State Planning Commission in 2005, when the rate of hypertension is 589/one lakh population at the national level, the rate in Kerala is 1,433. Diabetes prevalence at national level is 221/one lakh against the Kerala figure of 980/one lakh. The prevalence of heart diseases in the country is 385/one lakh, against the State’s figures of 914/one lakh. Another worrying fact is the increasing rate of breast cancer, especially among urban women (prevalence rate is 34/one lakh in urban area), which could be correlated to lifestyle factors like high-fat diet.

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