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

November 2010

MPs to tackle ill of child marriage

New Delhi | Nov 30, 2010

Child marriage, one of India’s worst social ills, has finally caught the parliamentarians’ attention. With an estimated 47% girls married off in India before they reach their 15th birthday, MPs — especially from states with high rates of child marriage like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Haryana — will hold a meeting on Tuesday to curb the social menace that borders on serious human rights violation. Child marriage has been a major concern for the Union health ministry. India introduced laws against child marriage in 1929, and set 12 years as the legal age for marriage. Later, it was increased to 18 years in 1978.

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Bihar, UP women have highest fertility rate

New Delhi | Nov 17, 2010

Women in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have the highest fertility rate (TFR) in India while those in Kerala and Tamil Nadu have the lowest. While the TFR in Bihar is 3.9 and that in UP is 3.8, the number stands at 1.7 in Kerala and TN. The other states with high TFR include MP and Rajasthan at 3.3, Jharkhand at 3.2 and Chhattisgarh at 3. Assam’s TFR is 2.6, Gujarat and Haryana’s 2.5, Orissa’s 2.4 and Jammu and Kashmir’s 2.2. States with TFR between 1-2 include Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka at 2 and West Bengal and Punjab at 1.9. Addressing the conference of Asian Population Association Azad said the sheer pressure of numbers and limited resources like land leads to widespread displacement of people forcing them to migrate in search of livelihood.

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Punjab plans fund for BPL families’ healthcare

Chandigarh | Nov 17, 2010

Punjab plans to create a fund to provide better healthcare facilities to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the state. The fund will facilitate providing of free medical treatment and healthcare facilities to the members of BPL families in the state's private super specialty hospitals. "These days, getting medical and healthcare facilities in private super specialty hospitals is beyond the reach of BPL families. A corpus fund will be established to provide free treatment to BPL families in these hospitals," Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said here.

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Himachal to provide free medicines to poor

Shimla | Nov 18, 2010

The Himachal Pradesh government would provide medicines free of cost to people living below poverty line (BPL) in the state. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, at a function in Sirmaur district, announced that under the Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhaya BPL Security Yojna, each below-poverty-line family would get 38 medicines free of cost in the government hospitals of the state. Around three lakh BPL families would be benefited. The government has already launched the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna or national health insurance scheme, under which it has tied up with the New India Insurance Company to provide an insurance cover of Rs 30,000 to each family.

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Appointment of 2,000 doctors soon

Jaipur | Nov 21, 2010

The Rajasthan Government has initiated the process for appointment of 2,000 doctors and will send them to community health centres and hospitals across the State where the posts of medicos have been lying vacant for long. Medical and Health Minister A. A. Khan claimed that this would be the largest-ever collective appointment of doctors in the history of the State.

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Centre to create database of health-related labs

New Delhi | Nov 22, 2010

The Centre is in the process of compiling information on various health-related laboratories in India to create a database of these facilities. The survey is being carried out with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO). Union Secretary for Health and Family Welfare Sujatha Rao has written to various Ministries and State governments seeking information in a specified pro-forma which should reach the South East Asian Region Office of WHO by November 22 for final compilation. “This will help us create a database of laboratories in the country,” Ms. Rao said.

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Health scheme for teenage girls in 200 backward dists

New Delhi | Nov 21, 2010

The government launched SABLA, or the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Adolescent Girls — a special scheme for the health and well-being of adolescent girls — as a pilot project in 200 most backward districts of the country. To be based on the Integrated Child Development Services, or ICDS platform, the basic function of the scheme would be to address the nutritional and special training aspects of girls between 11 and 18 years. “The success of this programme is vital for the progress of the country,” Union home minister P Chidambaram said while launching the programme.

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HIV+ mothers give birth to healthy kids at AIIMS

New Delhi | Nov 23, 2010

Doctors at AIIMS claim that they have successfully helped HIV positive women to deliver 84 children since August 2004, the highest number in all government hospitals across the country. Of these, 83 children are healthy and free from HIV infection. Head of the gynaecology department Dr Suneeta Mittal said 61% of these children were delivered through caesarean procedure as it reduces the chances of infection transmission by one-third. ‘‘We screened more than 10,000 pregnant women admitted at AIIMS under ‘Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission’ programme. Of these, 128 women tested positive for the disease. Fifteen percent opted for termination of the pregnancy while others were operated on and given the required drugs,’’ Mittal said.

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High medical bills push 100m into poverty every year: WHO

New Delhi | Nov 23, 2010

Illness and medical bills are pushing over 100 million people into poverty every year. In some countries, 5% of the population is forced into poverty every year because they have to pay for health services. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in countries like India, people who pay for their health care services suffer “catastrophic costs”. The report estimated that between 20% and 40% of all health expenditures is wasted due to inefficiency. Overpaying is a form of waste. For instance, in some places medicine prices are up to 67 times more than the international average price, grossly affecting expenditures for other health services.

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‘Only 3 lakh HIV+ patients have access to life-saving drugs’

New Delhi | Nov 24, 2010

Around 1.2 lakh Indians got infected with HIV last year, even though the incidence rate of new cases has fallen in the country by over 50% in the last decade. At present, India, which has 2.4 million HIV patients, ranks third after South Africa and Nigeria. However, the country’s HIV prevalence is still low at .31% — from .36% in 2006. Be that as it may, though seven lakh HIV+ Indians require the life-saving antiretroviral (ART) drugs, only three lakh have access to the medicine. As far as motherto-child transmission of HIV is concerned, India recorded 18,000 pediatric HIV births off 65,000 HIV+ mothers. India records 27 million pregnancies a year.

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Delhi on top in condom use

Chennai | Nov 24, 2010

More married couples in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh use condoms, while those in southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu prefer other methods like sterilization to prevent pregnancy. Family welfare statistics of 2009 released by the ministry of health and family welfare this year puts Andhra at the bottom of condom use among married couples, with only 0.5% of the married couples using condoms for contraception. Karnataka comes next with 1.7%, followed by Tamil Nadu with 2.3% condom users. Delhi tops the charts with a whopping 22.9% of couples using condoms — more than four times the national average of 5.2%. Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh rank the highest with 15.5%, 11.8% and 8.6% of couples using condoms.

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HIV cases in India drops by 50%: UN

New Delhi | Nov 24, 2010

India has shown a 50 per cent drop in the number of new HIV infections in the last 10 years as the AIDS epidemic is beginning to reverse globally with a decline in the newly-infected HIV cases and AIDS-related deaths, a United Nations report says. The 2010 UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic shows about 33.3 million people were estimated to be living with HIV at the end on 2009 with 2.3 million living in India, reports IANS. An estimated 2.6 million people became newly infected with HIV in 2009, nearly 20 per cent fewer than the 3.1 million people infected in 1999. In India, 120,000 people got infected in 2009.

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Private hospitals to start ICTC under PPP mode

Coimbatore | Nov 25, 2010

In an effort aimed at extending HIV/AIDS testing services to more areas and having an accurate data of persons with AIDS, the State Government has began efforts to establish Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTCs) in private hospitals. The ICTCs are to be established under the public-private partnership mode, in keeping with the objectives of the Phase Three of the National AIDS Control Programme. Tamilnadu State AIDS Control Society (TANSACS), which will oversee the establishment of the centres, will offer training on HIV/AIDS, TB, and sexually transmitted infection to a medical officer, two nurses and a lab technician of the hospital concerned.

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Punjab sets up hi-tech maternity wards

Chandigarh | Nov 25, 2010

To bring down the maternal and infant mortality rates in the state, the Punjab Government is setting up state-of-the art sick newborn care units (SNCU). The government has earmarked Rs 23 crore for setting up hi-tech maternity blocks in all district hospitals which will focus on institutional deliveries and treatment of infants. All maternity and infant care wards will be well-furnished and will have ultra-modern labour rooms and infant care units, having a capacity of 30 beds each. Adjoining the maternity wards will be SNCU. The upgrade in all hospitals will be complete by July next year,” Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary Satish Chandra said.

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Use of injectable contraceptives opposed

New Delhi |Nov 27, 2010

Women's organisations and health experts, including a member of the Population Council of India, have impressed upon the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) to disallow the use of Depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) – an injectable contraceptive used in the family planning programme. The DMPA, a progestogen-only contraceptive injected every 3 months, was licensed by the Drugs Controller of India in the 1990s. An intervention petition filed in the matter led to the DTAB restricting its use to private market.The approval itself was based on the manufacturer Max Pharma carrying out post-marketing studies as this injection was not properly researched in India.

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New drive to curb TB in Jharkhand

Ranchi | Nov 30, 2010

Jharkhand government has launched a campaign to eradicate Tubercles Bacillus (TB) or tuberculosis from the state. The campaign, titled Axshya launched in association with a non-governmental organisation —Care— aims at improving the reach, visibility and effectiveness of the revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme with the help of civil society. The campaign intends to cover seven districts in the state— including Bokaro, Dhanbad, East Singhbhum, Dumka, Godda, Koderma and Simdega. The select districts in the state are a part of the national level strategy to enhance the reach of TB treatment to 374 districts of 23 States.

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Country grappling with mixed burden of diseases: Azad

New Delhi | Nov 16, 2010

Addressing the centenary celebrations of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) here, Mr. Azad said as the country moved from a developing nation to the status of a developed one, it had to face the challenge of communicable, non-communicable and re-emerging diseases. “The health parameters of our population show a very wide range which reflects diversity of problems, lack of proper maternal and child healthcare facilities in a significant portion of the country and a large burden of morbidity due to infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS.” Malaria after the initial success in 1960s and 1970s has become a killer disease again especially in the inaccessible tribal population.

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250 districts selected for special health drive

New Delhi | Nov 16, 2010

The central government is planning a special programme focusing on 250 districts in states such as Bihar and Chhattisgarh that are lagging behind in maternal and child health. "The maternal mortality rate is 230 per lakh live births at present in India. We are progressing at a rate of four per cent per year since 1990, but more needs to be done," Health Secretary Sujatha Rao said at a press conference here. "While some states have done well, some like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and some other northern states are lagging far behind. The focus is to improve health services in these states," Rao said, reports IANS.

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Much more investment needed in health worldwide, say experts

New Delhi | Nov 15, 2010

Organisers of a two-day conference on maternal and child health in the Indian capital Monday said that more investments were needed to improve health services across the world. "We need more money for health, and more health for money," said Julio Frenk, chairman of Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) and Mexico's former health minister. Agreeing with Frenk, conference co-chair Health Secretary Sujatha Rao said that the India government is planning to increase its funding into education by 30 percent in next fiscal. "We are expecting a 30 to 35 percent increase in health funds," Rao said.

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NCPCR to recommend programmes for HIV/AIDS affected children

New Delhi | Nov 15, 2010

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is preparing a comprehensive document recommending programmes to provide assistance to HIV/AIDS affected children. The document includes suggestions like juvenile centres and providing legal and social support for children suffering from HIV/AIDS, NCPCR officials said. We are formulating a comprehensive policy document. The recommendations will include all issues related to children suffering from HIV/AIDS, an NCPCR member said. The documents deal with all issues relating to health, education, social stigma, legal assistance, and property and inheritance related issues, she said.

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2mn new TB cases in India last year

New Delhi | Nov 15, 2010

India is saddled with highest burden of tuberculosis — with nearly 2 million new cases recorded in 2009. Out of an estimated 1.3 million people who died of TB in 2008, the nation alone accounted for 2.8 lakh lives. India’s case detection was around 67%, while the estimated number of TB cases that had become multi-drug resistant was 99,000 in 2009. Even though the TB mortality rate has fallen by 35% since 1990, the disease claimed 1.7 million lives last year — of which 3.8 lakh were women. According to World Health Organisation’s annual report, “Global Tuberculosis Control 2010,” around 4,700 die of TB daily. An estimated 9.4 million contracted the disease in 2009 — the same number as the previous year.

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RAY OF HOPE: All HIV patients to get second-line treatment free

New Delhi | Nov 13, 2010

All HIV patients put on first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) before 2004 but who became resistant to those drugs will now receive the life saving second-line treatment free of cost from the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO). This is irrespective of whether the patients were receiving first line ART in a government centre or a private hospital. This major policy shift was finalized by NACO on Thursday night. Till now, NACO only provided second-line treatment to those HIV patients who were part of its ART centres and had become resistant to first line drugs. Those patients on first-line treatment in private hospitals or clinics were not eligible.

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Delhi High Court approves new course for rural health care

New Delhi | Nov 11, 2010

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday gave its go-ahead for a new medical course called Bachelor of Rural Health Care to prepare a cadre of doctors to take care of the primary health needs of rural population. The course has been prepared by the Medical Council of India. Approving the course, a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan asked the Council to prepare a curriculum for the course within two months. It directed the Union Government to notify the course within two months after preparation of the curriculum.

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Assam launches healthcare helpline

Guwahati | Nov 07, 2010

The Assam government launched a healthcare facility under which patients will be able to seek tips from doctors round-the-clock on an emergency telephone number. The emergency helpline 104 was inaugurated by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. For the service, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the government and Health Management Research Institute, a non-profit making healthcare facility provider based in Andhra Pradesh. Assam has become the second Indian state after Andhra Pradesh to have this call-a-doctor facility and the idea is to provide instant help to a patient or their families, Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

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Growth story doesn’t extend to edu, health: India Ranks 119th On Human Development Index

New Delhi | Nov 05, 2010

Twenty years after the first Human Development Report said that “the link between economic progress and human development is not automatic”, India is one of the world’s top-10 performers in terms of income growth over the last 40 years, but is far outperformed by much poorer countries in terms of health and education. The measurement of the HDI itself has been slightly altered and India now ranks 119th of 169 countries measured on the index, with China at 89, South Africa at 110, Pakistan at 125 and Bangladesh at 129. India is classified as a “medium human development” country.

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Punjab plans health emergency service

Chandigarh | Nov 03, 2010

No matter where you are in Punjab, within 30 minutes you would be shifted to a nearest hospital during any health emergency. To provide residents an emergency response service, the Punjab government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Ziqitza Health Care Limited, Mumbai, under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Under emergency response services, as many as 240 ambulances will be positioned in the state in a phased manner. Earlier in 2008, the Department of Health and Family Welfare had initiated the process for finalisation of the service and on January 1, 2009, an agreement with the Emergency Medical Response Institute (EMRI) was signed.

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Central procurement agency for health goods proposed

New Delhi | Nov 11, 2010

The government is considering a proposal for setting up a central agency for procuring, storing and distributing health sector goods for various national programmes, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said. The existing system of procurement and distribution is transparent. The Central Procurement Agency (CPA) is an initiative taken by the ministry to further improve the existing system, Azad said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. The minister said that setting up and managing an efficient supply chain, keeping service as prime motive, preventing stock-outs and reduction in wastage due to excess inventory, and improving system of quality control so that the end-user gets quality products were the main goals.

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86% of all medical trips are made by rural Indians’

New Delhi | Nov 11, 2010

Indians made 126 million domestic trips for medical purposes, spending over Rs 23,000 crore on such trips, over the span of one year (2008-09) alone. That, incidentally, is about 30% more than the Union health budget for the same year. There is, however, a crucial difference. While most international medical tourists to India make the journey because it offers massive cost savings, domestic medical tourism is largely driven by poor health infrastructure in rural areas and small towns. That’s clear from the fact that 86% of all trips taken for medical purposes are by rural Indians and the poorest spend much more proportionally on medical tourism than the rich. The data shows that trips for health and medical purposes form 7% of all overnight trips for the rural population and about 3.5% for the urban population.

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Next five year plan to focus on maternal, child health

New Delhi |Nov 11, 2010
Maternal and child health are expected to be the areas of thrust in the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-17), Planning Commission member Sayeeda Hameed said at a meeting. "From 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) that is allocated to health care in the country, we are proposing allocating 2-3 percent," said Hameed. "The Twelfth plan would emphasise on a child health policy," said Hameed, adding that 2011 may be declared the year of child and maternal health. Experts from different backgrounds and members of the civil society here gathered at a public hearing on maternal and child health organised by a voluntary organisation.

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National conference on midwives' accountability inaugurated

Puducherry | Nov 12, 2010

Lieutenant Governor Iqbal Singh inaugurated the eight national-level conference on “Women Entitlement-Midwives Accountability” organised by the Puducherry chapter of Society of Midwives India (SOMI) here. Addressing the participants, Mr. Singh said that India had the largest number of births per year (27 million) in the world. It was estimated that 60 per cent of such births were domiciliary deliveries. He said that according to a UNICEF report, as many as 80,000 pregnant women or new mothers died each year from preventable causes.

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‘NAC failed to address hunger and malnutrition'

New Delhi | Nov 12, 2010

The Right to Food Campaign said that it was “extremely disappointed” with the recommendations of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on the proposed Food Security Bill and that it would continue its struggle for a Comprehensive Food Security Act. Urging the NAC to “reconsider” its decisions, the Campaign said that the main objective of the proposals seems to be to minimise the budgetary and foodgrains burden of the [proposed] Bill rather than ensure food security for all citizens. “We reject the minimalist framework that has failed to address the situation of hunger and malnutrition in the country.” The NAC, in its meeting last month, had proposed a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains for at least 75 per cent of the population, translating into 90 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban populations in two categories of households, namely ‘priority' and ‘general'.

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Food Security law soon: Centre

New Delhi | Nov 12, 2010

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that it would soon put in place the National Food Security legislation after taking into consideration the recommendations of the National Advisory Council. This law would address the court's concerns over making foodgrains allotment to the States. Attorney-General G. E. Vahanvati told a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma that pending enactment of the legislation, a committee was constituted to monitor the creation of storage capacity, and for prudent management of the grain stock with the Centre. He said that in terms of the 1993-94 poverty estimates, the number of additional BPL families, on the basis of the 2010 population estimates, worked out to 1.17 crore, and not seven crore as stated by the petitioner PUCL.

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Private hospitals must treat poor for free, says HC

New Delhi | Nov 12, 2010

Big private hospitals who got land at concessional rates in the city can’t escape the obligation to provide free treatment to certain percentage of poor patients, the Delhi high court has said. A division bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan came down heavily on private hospitals shirking from extending free treatment to poor patients though it was one of the clause in the lease deed due to which land was given to hospitals at a very cheap price. HC’s comments came on a plea filed by a few prominent city hospitals like Ganga Ram and St Stephen’s claiming that the 2007 landmark verdict of HC approving the free bed scheme wasn’t applicable on them.

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World Bank helps Meghalaya to set up hospital

New Delhi | Nov 03, 2010

For addressing the shortage of medical staff and improving health services, the World Bank is supporting Meghalaya in India's northeast to establish its first public-private partnership for a new hospital and medical college. International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, was extending its global expertise in structuring and implementing public-private partnership transactions to assist the state in this project, reports IANS. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said: "Successful implementation of the Shillong hospital and medical college will provide trained medical staff and quality and affordable health services to people and create employment opportunities."

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