Health News update is a weekly news collation of health news which is shared on the Repro health list serve and archived on this website.

Health News

September 2010

India sends 80% of AIDS drugs to poor nations

New Delhi | Sept 16, 2010

A new study has established that Indian generic manufacturers supplied more than 80% of donor-funded AIDS medicines to developing countries in the last seven years, confirming India’s status as the pharmacy of the Third World. The study — ‘A lifeline to treatment: the role of Indian generic manufacturers in supplying antiretroviral medicines to developing countries’ — was done by UNITAID, a facility for purchase of drugs against HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB founded in 2006, Boston School of Medicine and Center for International Development, Harvard. At the same time a study ‘Free trade pacts may hit low-cost generic drugs’, expressed concern that the legal framework in India that facilitated such production, was changing with implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

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Gogoi launches country's first model district health project

Guwahati | Sept 28, 2010

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi launched the Morigaon Model District Health Project, Health Department's ambitious project, in collaboration with The Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Morigaon becomes the first district in the country to have started the project and is among the five districts in the country (the rest being one each in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar) to have been selected under the model district health project. Mr. Gogoi hoped that the project would aim at reducing infant and maternal mortality rates not only in Morigaon district but in other districts of the State as well by 2015.

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AIDS budget focus on prevention: Naco

New Delhi | Sept 17, 2010

Claiming that India has a low prevalence of AIDS with 99.69% population uninfected by the disease, the Centre has reduced the HIV-related budget by Rs 100 crore, from Rs 1,030.87 crores in 2008-09 to Rs 924.1 crores in 2009-10. Informing SC in an affidavit, the National AIDS Control Organisation (Naco) said low prevalence of HIV has prompted the government to focus more on preventing new infections in high risk groups and general population rather than on care and treatment of existing patients. The lowering of budget was due to reduction in grants from the Global Fund for Care, Support and Treatment. It said: “Naco had submitted a proposal of $530 million to GFCST. However, of these, only $420 million have been approved for period of six years (April 2010-March 2016).

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Most deaths of children under five occur in India, says Unicef report

New Delhi | Sept 18, 2010

This is another ranking that India would hate to top. Close on the heels of recording the largest number of women dying during child birth, the country now occupies another top spot. India holds the unenviable record of being home to the highest number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday. According to the latest United Nations under-five mortality estimates, released by Unicef, India recorded 17.26 lakh under-five deaths with a mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) of 66 in 2009. However, there is a silver lining in these depressing figures. The statistic was much worse in 1990 — the base year from when the progress made by countries to combat child mortality is calculated. In 1990, India had recorded 31 lakh under-five deaths, with a mortality rate of 118.

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‘Docs, clinicians on a par in villages’

New Delhi | Sept 18, 2010

It’s official now. At the primary healthcare level, there is no difference in the performance of MBBS doctors with five-and-a-half years’ training and non-physician clinicians with three years’ training who have been called “legal quacks” by the Indian Medical Association (IMA). Following the controversy over the government’s decision to start three-year courses to train clinicians for primary healthcare, especially in rural areas, called the Bachelor of Rural Health Care (BRHC), a study was conducted by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), the National Health Systems Resource Centre (NHSRC) and the State Health Systems Resource Centre in Chhattisgarh comparing MBBS graduates, the three-year trained nonphysician clinicians or rural medical assistants (RMAs), ayurveda unani siddha and homeopathy (AYUSH) physicians and paramedical staff (nurses and pharmacists).

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Average Indian Life Span To Rise 4 Yrs By 2021

New Delhi | Sept 18, 2010

According to the Union health ministry’s latest projections, the life expectancy at birth (LEB) of an Indian male will be 69.8 years in 2021 compared to 65.8 at present and 63.8 years in 2001. In comparison, an average Indian woman can expect to live to 72.3 years by 2021, compared to 68.1 now and 66.1 in 2001. Close on the heels of recording the largest number of women dying in childbirth, India now holds the unenviable record of the highest number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday. Union health secretary K Sujatha Rao said, “We are increasing institutional deliveries and giving incentives to women coming to a hospital to deliver their child. This way, we cut down on deaths at birth. Besides, we have started home-based neonatal care by community health workers for women who return from an institution delivery. This way, we are reducing deaths of children within the first month of life on account of low weight.’’

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India’s development report card shows fuzzy priorities

New Delhi | Sept 19, 2010

Leaders from 191 countries will get together in New York to review the progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) – a set of eight targets to fight hunger, disease and ignorance to be met by 2015. India has already prepared an interim report that shows mixed progress. But can we inch closer to achieving any of these targets in the remaining five years? According to an analysis by the Centre for Budget & Governance Accountability (CBGA), the government’s budget allocations over the past three years indicate foggy priorities and missed opportunities. India is severely lagging in poverty eradication, providing food for all, reduction in child and mother deaths and fighting infectious diseases.

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Raj women lead the way in popping birth-control pills

New Delhi | Sept 21, 2010

When it comes to popping oral birth control pills, women from Rajasthan seem to be showing the way. In a state-wise analysis of oral pill users, conducted by the Union health ministry, the desert state has topped the list at 8.82 lakh in 2008. Surprisingly, Delhi, Bihar and Kerala recorded very low figures — 1,257, 6,882 and 29,722, respectively. Lakshwadeep at 120 brought out the rear, followed by Manipur (584), Chandigarh (685) and Nagaland (912). According to Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, the nation’s growing population has become a major problem. In a recent letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Azad urged a vigorous implementation of family planning policies in a humane and ethical manner.

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‘Prioritise marginalised communities'

New Delhi | Sept 22, 2010

Save the Children calls upon the world's leaders to step up their efforts to reach the goals, and says that they cannot do this by leaving the poorest children behind. Governments must focus on the barriers that stop the poorest children from getting access to the health care and nutrition that will improve their chances of survival. Save the Children's research shows that prioritising marginalized and excluded communities, especially in States lagging behind. The National Rural Health Mission, for example, should have a clear focus on social inclusion of Dalits and Adivasis in terms of access to health care. The Indian government continues to wrongly focus on the number of women who give birth in a health facility, known as institutional deliveries, as a measure of progress on maternal health. This approach gives an erroneous picture about progress on maternal health, Human Rights Watch said

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Doctors to support healthcare in Orissa

New Delhi | Sept 23, 2010

French non-governmental organisation Doctors of the World ( Medecins du Monde) has tied up with the Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI) to provide health care facility and awareness in Bhawanipatna in Orissa. Pierre Micheletti, former president of Medecins du Monde (MDM) said the aim is to facilitate and supplement the existing healthcare facilities, with special focus on health education. “We do not want to duplicate what the government is doing but support the existing facilities in Bhawantipatna,” , adding that the State was chosen as the VHAI has been working there for several years.

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Reproductive and child health project a success

Jaipur | Sept 26, 2010

A five-year project on Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) implemented in 180 villages of seven districts in Rajasthan with financial assistance from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) has yielded “encouraging results” in terms of awareness and access to RCH services as well as changes in the attitude and perception. The project was mainly focused on community empowerment and linkages with government departments and panchayats for accessing better RCH services in the rural areas. It aimed at reduction in child and maternal mortality and total fertility rate and survival of the girl child.

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U.P. district record maximum underage marriages among girls

New Delhi | Sept 28, 2010

Uttar Pradesh's Shrawasti district has the maximum number of girls marrying below 18 years of age in the country while Bahraich of the same State comes second. A whopping 82.8 per cent of girls in Shrawasti are married off before the legal age of 18 with the corresponding figure in Bahraich being 70.7 per cent. Bihar and Rajasthan are the two other States with very high underage marriage. The Ministry would take stock of all these figures while launching the ‘Sabla' programme for the health of adolescent girls as a pilot project in 200 districts of the country from November. The hill States seem to fare far better as compared to their counterparts in plains.

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Maternal Mortality on the decline

New Delhi | Sept 16, 2010

Women dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth fell 34 per cent from 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008, said a UN report. Of these, 78,000 childbirth related deaths took place in India. The decline -about 2.3 per cent annually -fell short of the 5.5 per cent needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015. India's maternal mortality ratio has declined to 254 per 100,000 live births in 2004-06 from 301 per 100,000 live births during 2001-03. Janani Suraksha Yojana -the central government scheme to encourage women to deliver babies in hospitals and clinics instead of at home -has led to 72.9 per cent women giving birth in hospitals compared to 40.7 per cent in 2005-06.

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A test that diagnoses TB in just an hour

London | Sept 16, 2010

Scientists have developed a new test which can diagnose tuberculosis in one hour, potentially helping to curb the spread of the disease, a health agency said in a study on Wednesday. The “ultra-rapid” test is far quicker than traditional methods, which can take up to eight weeks and mean that patients, who are often from transient populations, move on untreated, said the Health Protection Agency (HPA). “We’re excited to have developed this new test because it means we can potentially diagnose someone at a TB clinic within an hour and start them immediately on the treatment they need,” said Cath Arnold of the HPA, who led the study.

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BIRTH PANGS : Despite 59% drop, India tops maternal mortality list

New Delhi | : Sept 16, 2010

Though India has seen a dramatic fall in maternal mortality rate (MMR) by 59% between 1990 and 2008, the country is still home to highest number of women dying during childbirth across the world. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, I am aware that a large number of maternal deaths take place in India, which can be prevented. By preventing the three delays in seeking health care and by addressing the causes of maternal mortality like post-partum hemorrhage, sepsis, obstructed labour and unsafe abortions, a lot of avoidable maternal deaths can be prevented.”

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Capital again shows its preference for boys

New Delhi | Sept 15, 2010

The astounding sex ratio of 1,004 girls per 1,000 boys that Delhi had registered in 2008, eliciting paeans to the Laadli scheme from all sections of the government, has touched a far more modest 915 girls per 1,000 boys in 2009. The figure is way below the acceptable international level of 952 females per 1,000 males and the national average of 933 as per the 2001 data. Finance Minister A K Walia who released the report said: ‘‘This is just a stabilization of the levels. Last year because Laadli was launched, there must have been a spurt in registration of births of girls.” In fact the actual figures could be even worse as an analysis of the sex ratio for non-institutional deliveries shows that in 2009, it was 1,060 as opposed to 1,303 in 2008, which could be an indicator of under-reporting of male births — as there is no incentive in case of boys to register their births — or even over-reporting of female births.

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Induced abortions dipping, but no. still high at 6.41 lakh

New Delhi | Sept 15, 2010

The number of medical termination of pregnancies (MTP) or induced abortions has started to dip in India, however, the country still records a large number of such abortions — in 2008, India saw 6.41 lakh abortions across 12,510 institutions, approved to carry out MTP. According to the Family Welfare Statistics in India 2009, brought out by the Union health ministry, India recorded 7.25 lakh MTPs in 2005, 7.21 lakh in 2006 and 6.82 lakh induced abortions in 2007. Union health secretary K Sujatha Rao told TOI, “We have been working with doctors to better train them in techniques of abortion so that MTPs can be made safer. At present 8% of maternal mortality in India is due to unsafe abortions. So reduction in abortion numbers as a whole will automatically decrease mortality figures.”

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Gogoi launches country's first model district health project

Guwahati | Sept 28, 2010

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi launched the Morigaon Model District Health Project, Health Department's ambitious project, in collaboration with The Earth Institute, Columbia University, and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Morigaon becomes the first district in the country to have started the project and is among the five districts in the country (the rest being one each in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar) to have been selected under the model district health project. Mr. Gogoi hoped that the project would aim at reducing infant and maternal mortality rates not only in Morigaon district but in other districts of the State as well by 2015.

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WHO CARES? Several states are in the grip of diseases, yet the overwhelming media attention is only on the national capital

New Delhi | Sept 14, 2010

When it comes to disease control, forewarned is not forearmed. Disease outbreaks strike India each year with more regularity than the monsoons, yet the government is always caught unprepared. Take western Uttar Pradesh, where people living in the districts of Moradabad, Baghpat and Saharanpur have been losing young children to a “mystery fever“ for more than a decade. The mosquito-borne disease has been striking the Gorakhpur district between July and October with clockwork regularity for more than three decades. Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra have also reported dengue outbreaks. Karnataka is also grappling with the mosquito-borne malaria, which has infected 17,374, and chikunguya, which has caused 1,071 confirmed infections.

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NACO signs MoU with Global Trust Fund on HIV/AIDS prevention

New Delhi | Sept 09, 2010

India and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) have signed a three-year grant agreement for $128.4 million or Rs.609.9 crore to support the continuation of flagship programmes of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO). The agreement was signed between NACO director-general K. Chandramouli and GFATM executive director Michel Kazatchkine. The programmes covered under the grant agreement include Integrated Counselling and Testing Services (ICTS), Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT) services and HIV-TB collaborative services.

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“Huge inequity in child mortality rates”

New Delhi | Sept 08, 2010

Children from the poorest communities are three times more likely to die before they reach the age of 5 than those from high income groups, Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation has said. “The 41 percentage decline in child mortality over the last two decades masks a dangerous expansion of the child mortality gap between the richest and poorest families in India,” Save the Children CEO Thomas Chandy said. Child mortality is often described as the best barometer of social and economic progress. Despite being one of the fastest growing economies, there has been no visible pattern between per capita income growth and the rate of reduction of child mortality rates. In 2008, 5.3 lakh children under 5 died in the lowest income quintile in comparison to 1.78 lakh among the wealthy quintile.

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India's march for Millennium Development Goals uneven: Report

New Delhi | Sept 12, 2010

India cannot adopt a one size fits all approach to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and the progress made after two-thirds of the time-lapse has been mixed, says the latest report of a UN agency. The report said about 1.5 million children continue to die every year before completing a year after their birth. The infant mortality rate considerably improved over the past three decades, declining from 80 per thousand live births in 1990 to 53 in 2008. India is required to reduce its infant mortality rate to 26.7 per thousand live births by 2015 as per the goals set for the country. "But it is expected to achieve a level of about 46 by 2015, far short of the target."

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Global Fund seeks India's support for health spending

Chennai | Sept 10, 2010

Michel D. Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund (GF) to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, arrived in India to get greater Indian support and funding for global health spending ahead of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) summit in New York. While he signed agreements with some new partners and promoted community-ownership of projects, Professor Kazatchkine's primary task is to meet top government officials and the Union Health and Finance Ministers to solicit political support in the advocacy efforts to replenish the GF.India's position is perceived to be critical at two levels — as a country with a significant disease burden, and also as one being looked up to for leadership in keeping the focus on health issues. He has also asked the Indian government to directly enhance its contribution to the GF replenishment fund.

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Diarrhoea: NRHM official takes stock of the situation

Berhampur | Sept 09, 2010

Pramod Kumar Meherda, Director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in Orissa, reached Rayagada district to enquire about the rise in diarrhoea cases in the district. According to official sources, the diarrhoea toll in the district has gone up to 33. During the past one week five deaths were reported in the district. Dr. Meherda chaired a meeting of administrative and medical officials from different blocks of the district to discuss the measures initiated to check the outbreak of diarrhoea. It may be noted that the State government has already deputed ten additional doctors to the district to help the administration control the spread of diarrhoea in the district. Five of them are now camping in Kashipur block, two are in Kalyansinghpur block and three in Bisamkatak block. They are helping the doctors posted in the district.

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"Plan panel working overtime on malnutrition"

New Delhi | Sept 01, 2010

India’s apex planning body, the Planning Commission, is interacting with and getting suggestions from the ground-level health workers and is incorporating these in policies to tackle malnutrition in the country. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a symposium, Arun Maira, Member of the Planning Commission, said: "We are approaching the ground-level workers like the anganwadi and asha workers of each district in panchayat level to discuss the ground-level issues of malnutrition and we are trying to incorporate their suggestions in the already existing policies." Maira also felt that this step by the Planning Commission is an effective exercise to eradicate malnutrition, as they get first-hand information from the grassroots level, reports IANS.

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