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

February 2011

This Budget, children’s health needs attention

New Delhi| Feb 28, 2011

As the Union Budget draws near, activists have demanded increase in the spending on children. Consider this: two million children under 5 years die every year in India, almost one out of three malnourished children live in India and 45.9% children under 3 years are underweight. Spending on health care in India remains low in comparison to many developing and developed countries. Most European countries spend about 9%-11% of their GDP on public health. Government expenditure as a share of the total health expenditure in India is less than what Asian countries such as China and Indonesia spend on health care.

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New software to check maternal mortality in Tamil Nadu, India

Chennai | Feb 17, 2011

A software will soon be used in Primary Health Centres in the state of Tamil Nadu India to keep tabs on the mother throughout her ante-natal period and the child until the age of one year. The software will generate a unique number will be generated for every pregnant woman to maintain a record of their weight, scan results, anemia and nutrition details. With the inability to closely follow-up on women during their pregnancy period impairing its ability to bring down maternal mortality rate, the State government has rolled up its sleeves to address the problem. The Directorate of Public Health has commissioned the use of the Pregnancy Infant COHORT Monitoring Evaluation (PICME) software for all staff members, primarily in all primary health centres (PHC), and for outreach workers.

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Amartya Sen calls for access to health care

Kolkata | Feb 18, 2011

Just as the country has guaranteed the right to education for all, there is a need for the right to universal access to public health care, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen said. In health there is not even a promise. We want to press for it,” Dr. Sen told journalists at an event to announce the setting up of the Pratichi Institute in Kolkata. He said that in India there was an over-reliance on the private sector in health care that had led to “a situation in which quite often very poor peasants are exploited.” Citing the example of universal healthcare in every country in Europe, America, Canada, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, he said people in India should have a right to public health. “We want the same here,” he added.

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PHFI rejected HPV vaccine project proposal

New Delhi | Feb 18, 2011

The proposal for conducting the now controversial “Post-licensure observational study of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination: Demonstration Project,” carried out by a non-governmental organisation PATH for two major pharmaceutical companies, had been turned down by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) as it failed to state the ethical aspects involved in it. The PHFI had received the proposal for conducting the study from the Indian Institute of Public Health at Gandhi Nagar (Gujarat) but the Institutional Ethics Committee of the Foundation rejected it on the grounds that it was “based on the assumption that no ethical issues arise with regard to undertaking the HPV vaccine demonstration project.''

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Kolkata Declaration calls for publicly provided health care for all

Kolkata | Feb 20, 2011

At the ninth Kolkata Group workshop, chaired by Professor Amartya Sen, 45 participants from different walks of life, including social scientists, policy makers and development experts, convened to assess the dimensions of social equity in India, especially as related to poverty, elementary education, and health. The participants assessed that the benefits of economic growth over the past two decades, while substantial, have not translated into health security for people. Many countries in Asia, including even those with lower per capita income, are tending to outperform India in health and healthcare. Influential policymakers in India seem to be attracted by the idea that private healthcare, properly subsidised, or private health insurance, subsidised by the state, can meet the challenge.

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Jharkhand moots health cover for neo-BPL families

Ranchi | Feb 21, 2011

About 11.44 lakh families, who have recently added to the list of below the poverty line (BPL) by the State government, may soon have the reason to rejoice.
The State government has decided to provide them free health insurance facility at par with those already classified as BPL by the Centre. While those listed as per the Central criterion already have the facility, the State government has decided to set a trust with corpus fund of Rs 25 crore to manage the payment of premiums for the free health insurance scheme of the newly included families. The minister said that the new trust would come up by the first week of January and officials of the health, labour and employment and Revenue departments would be the ex-officio members of the body.

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Healthcare programme for elderly approved

New Delhi | Feb 23, 2011

The government has approved a special programme for providing proper healthcare facilities for the elderly. "Government of India has approved the National Programme for Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE) to improve health services for the elderly," Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha. The plan includes setting up eight geriatric care centers across the country. Geriatric units will also be opened at 100 district hospitals in 21 states, and units will also be created at community and primary health centres. Development of manpower for this is among the highlights of the plan. "Funds for all 21 states and eight regional geriatric centres have been sanctioned. So far, funds have been released to 3 regional geriatric centres and a state on receipt of bank account details and signing of a MoU," Azad added.

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Foetal sex determination on rise in Erode

Erode | Feb 22, 2011

There is an alarming decline in the child sex ratio in the district. Currently, Erode has a child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 932 girls per 1,000 boys, which is far below the national average and the internationally accepted levels. Social activists now fear that the scant attention paid by the health officials in the district in monitoring the ultrasound scan centres and their failure in the strict enforcement of Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act may lead to severe consequences in the years to come. The foetal sex determination and female foeticide, according to highly-placed official sources, happens at all levels in society. “Most of these incidents do not come to light as they have been done very discreetly and with the knowledge of the persons concerned,” a senior official says.

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12 pregnant women die in Jodhpur hospital

Jodhpur | Feb 25, 2011

At least 12 pregnant women died of excessive bleeding at a government-run hospital here after they were allegedly administered contaminated IV fluids. A probe has been launched into the incident. Though the authorities were tight-lipped about the incident, sources in the Umaid Hospital told that the authorities had begun an inquiry into whether the contamination was hospital-acquired or had come from the manufacturer. The Rajasthan Government on Sunday suspended a drug inspector and an employee of the Hospital and announced an ex-gratia assistance of Rs.5 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased, besides blacklisting two pharmaceutical and surgical equipment firms.

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Over 50% adolescent girls in India anaemic: UNICEF

New Delhi | Feb 26, 2011

More than half of adolescent girls in India are anaemic, a recent report from UNICEF says. Malnourishment among India’s adolescent population is found to be higher than even some of the least developed countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The future of adolescent girls in the country seems dismal with a vicious cycle of underweight adolescence, child marriage and maternal mortality. More than half of them (56%) are anaemic and 43% are married off before the age of 18.The appalling nutritional figures for adolescents put India in the company of least developed nations such as Congo, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

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Call for complete ban on sex determination, foeticide

Jaipur | Feb 28, 2011

A “Dignity of Girl Child Foundation” was launched in the presence of two State Ministers in Jaipur with a call for affirmative action for girls, restoration of their value in the society, complete ban on sex determination tests and female foeticide and renewed efforts to check the declining sex ratio in Rajasthan. A conglomerate of three non-government organisations – Urmul, Swach and Vihaan – joined hands for the unique initiative with the support of Awake Foundation and Gyanodaya Trust. The three NGOs have been working for the past five to six years in the far-flung areas of five districts – Jaisalmer, Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh, Jhunjhunu and Alwar – to meet the challenge of sharp fall in the number of women in the population.

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State approves introduction of second dose of measles vaccine

Bhubaneswar | Feb 28, 2011

With measles continuing to be leading cause of childhood and disability, the State government has approved for introduction of second dose of measles vaccine in the State. In a notification issued on Friday, the Health and Family Welfare Department says, “measles vaccine has been introduced in the country for more than 40 years and has a good track record of safety. It is already in the vaccination schedule of the State.” Measles is a vaccine preventable disease which is an important cause of under five mortality in the State . Currently, the vaccine for measles is part of the universal immunisation programme and is given at nine months as a single dose.

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Role of private sector in healthcare stressed

Chennai | Feb 13, 2011

While, undoubtedly, public investment in healthcare must increase, the government must also accept the presence of the private sector and formulate policies to minimise distortions, former Union Health Secretary Sujatha Rao has said. Essential to this plan is increasing substantially public investment to provide universal access to basic care. At the same time, it is important for the government to play the role of a price stabiliser. This would involve setting standards — quality assurance, accreditation, and certification for which minimum standards must be in place. She was delivering a lecture on ‘Public Health Financing' organised by CHARTERED, Voluntary Health Services, Chennai. Dr. Rao's roadmap for the future included an ability to negotiate prices (essentially with the private sector) and a focus on preventive services by establishing strong public health personnel tasked with spreading health information.

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West Bengal records first polio case of ’11: 18-Month-Old From Howrah District Tests Positive

New Delhi| Feb 13, 2011

India has recorded its first case of polio infection this year. The victim of the crippling disease is an 18-month-old girl from West Bengal’s Howrah district. She tested for polio after the onset of paralysis on June 13. The girl has been infected with the dangerous type-1 virus. The P1 strain of polio causes large outbreaks and paralyses one out of every 200 children infected. The Union health ministry was informed that the child was never immunized against polio before the virus infected her. She had not received any dose of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) either in the nationwide polio campaigns or under routine immunization. The ministry is now planning an emergency mop-up round against the virus in Howrah on February 13 using the more efficacious monovalent oral polio vaccine type-1 (mOPV1).This will be followed by the nationwide polio round on February 27 and subsequent mop-up rounds in the infected areas in the next few months.

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Global slump retards HIV focus

New Delhi | Feb 10, 2011

With finances drying up for research projects as the world economy has slumped, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has sought more funds for work on developing prevention vaccines. The issue needs to be given priority at the moment because there are several encouraging developments happening globally in the field of AIDS vaccine research and we are closer to results,” Seth Berkeley, CEO, IAVI, said. The IAVI is working on several research projects in India including with the Department of Biotechnology, the Indian Institute of Science, the National Aids Research Institute, the AIIMS and the PGI Chandigarh, to name a few. Pointing out that pricing of the possible vaccine in the near future was a critical issue, Dr Berkeley said it would be meant for the target groups initially, and not as a public health intervention.

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Treat all marriages in age group of 16 to 18 as voidable

New Delhi | Feb 10, 2011

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that all marriages in the age group of 16 to 18 should be treated as voidable at the instance of either party to avoid the problem of girls below the age of 16 giving consent for marriage and making it valid. Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising, explaining the government's stand before a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A.K. Ganguly, wanted the court to intervene in this regard. The Bench was hearing a petitions filed by National Commission for Women questioning a Delhi High Court order upholding the marriage of a girl who had not reached the age of 18. The NCW had pointed out that there were many disparities between the Child Marriage (Restraint) Act, the Hindu Marriage Act, explanation to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the Shariat, the Indian Divorce Act, Child Labour (Regulation) Act and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 with respect to the minimum age for marriage of girls.

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Panel finds deficiencies in HPV vaccine project

New Delhi | Feb 08, 2011

The three-member committee, set up to probe the alleged irregularities in conducting studies using human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine by PATH in India, has identified several deficiencies in the planning and implementation of the project leading “to a crisis requiring suspension of the study,” but has fallen short of fixing responsibility on any individual or agency. The interim report submitted to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that it was true that a lot of negative vibes had been generated against this project due to mishandling of the situation, but the committee had not been able to identify a single event, individual or agency which could be held entirely accountable for it. A collective effort was required to raise the standards of clinical research — first, in the arena of implementation of bioethical guidelines and second, in the monitoring and investigating adverse events following immunisation to raise public confidence.

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Children edutained on TB

New Delhi | Feb 07, 2011

To educate students about tuberculosis, entertaining awareness games based on the model of popular television serial Kaun Banega Crorepati and cricket are now being freely distributed in many schools of the Capital. These interactive games endorsed by Government's Revised National TB Control Programme are being distributed in both public and government schools in Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The programme has been initiated even in some MCD schools. Compact discs have also been given to State TB Control Office of Delhi for distribution across its network. A specialised website has been dedicated to access and promote these games. Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of mortality in India and accounts for 1/5th of the global incidence. In India, every year, 1.9 million new cases of TB occur and 0.8 million are infectious new smear positive pulmonary TB cases.

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Seminar debates sexual violence in India's conflict zones — and the military link

Mumbai | Feb 07, 2011

The structured sexual violence in conflict zones, apart from that wrought by the pursuit of the neo-liberal paradigm of development, causing a plunder of resources, displacement, distress and by age-old old caste practices was widely discussed at a two-day seminar in Mumbai titled ‘Negotiating Spaces: Gender Concerns Conflict Zones'. Speakers pointed to an increase in militarisation with upcoming development projects. “Whenever there is militarisation, the problems of women and children are the same,” said Helam Haokip of Women Against Sexual violence and State Repression, Manipur. Noted lawyer Flavia Agnes said, “Most of India is in conflict. It's not a particular zone anywhere, it's a daily reality.” She said: “The threat of rape” was no longer the binding factor for the feminist movement. Caste, class and education played a very big role in the determining the levels of vulnerability among women. There was, therefore, a need to question the feminist ideology. The question of “who pays the price for our feminism?” needed to be examined, she said.

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Health sector faces crisis

Bhubaneswar | Jan 25, 2011

Orissa Medical Service Association (OMSA) said the State was heading for a crisis in health sector with 900 doctors set to retire from their respective posts in 2012. Addressing a press conference here, OMSA president Madhusudan Mishra said “The basic problem of government-run health services is gross shortage of allopathic doctors. About 2,000 doctors are practically rendering emergency health services to 4.5 crore population against the sanctioned post of 4,258. If one goes by population ratio, more than 12,000 doctors are required in the State”.

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Call to increase public financing for health care

Chennai | Jan 22, 2011

Increasing public financing for health care, allotting 70 per cent of funds for primary health care and regulating drug prices are the key factors that would go towards providing universal health coverage in India, K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India has said. Tax funds must be the principal source of health funding, with insurance and employer contributions being minor funding sources, Prof. Reddy said. While India's per capita health spend is about $100, the public contribution is only about $19. Much of it is out of pocket expenditure for the patient, he said delivering the 2011 Guhan Memorial Lecture, organised by the Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG).

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‘Sabala Yojana' launched for out-of-school adolescent girls

Jaipur | Jan 25, 2011

Rajasthan Women and Child Development Minister Bina Kak launched the “Sabala Yojana” for empowerment of out-of-school adolescent girls through supplementary nutrition and life skills training at anganwadi centres, ensuring their mental and physical growth, and enabling them to become self-sufficient. The Minister released the adolescent girls' kits, to be distributed to sathins (workers) at anganwadi centres, as well as brochures for the scheme. She asked the officers of her department to devise vocational training programmes, which the girls would find useful for gainful employment in future.

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TB programme being expanded to provide quality care

Hyderabad | Jan 26, 2011

After achieving global benchmarks in case-detection and treatment success rate for the last three years, the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) is being expanded by roping in more private practitioners for providing universal access to quality care. Disclosing this at a press conference, Deputy Program Manager, Central TB Division, said the programme achieved a case-detection rate of over 73 per cent and a treatment success rate of over 87 per cent in 2010 against the global benchmark of 70 and 85 per cent respectively. Since the launch of RNTCP in 1997, more than 12.6 million patients have been treated and 2.2 million deaths averted. Quality-assured diagnostic facilities were available in more than 12,800 laboratories across the country.

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NAC suggests inclusion of domestic workers in Sexual Harassment Bill

New Delhi | Jan 28, 2011

The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) has written to the government, suggesting some major amendments to the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, ahead of a conference of State Ministers for women and child development, to be chaired by Union Minister Krishna Tirath. The conference agenda includes, among a host of issues, a look at this key piece of legislation. A NAC member explained that if the Bill was really intended “to promote gender equality and justice and the universally recognised human right to work with dignity,” it was of paramount importance to widen the scope of the Bill to include domestic workers.

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Infant mortality rate shows decline

New Delhi | Jan 28, 2011

The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in India has come down to 50 (deaths per 1,000 live births) from 53, showing a reduction of three points as compared to 2008, and eight points since 2005, when the national average was 58. The latest data released by the Registrar-General of India (RGI) in its Sample Registration System for the calendar year of 2009 shows a nine-point decline in rural IMR during 2005-2009 compared to six points in cities and towns. The IMR is the lowest in Goa at 11, though it was 10 in 2008, followed by Kerala at 12. The worst performers are Madhya Pradesh at 67, Orissa at 65, Uttar Pradesh at 63, and Assam at 61. In Tamil Nadu, the IMR has come down from 31 in 2008 to 28 in 2009.

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Stigma-Free Care : HIV+ may get medical insurance soon

New Delhi | Feb 02, 2011

India could soon see a national medical insurance policy for people living with HIV (PLHIV). In a meeting with insurance companies and the Insurance Regulatory Development Agency on February 3, the National Aids Control Organization (Naco) will press them to make insurance “inclusive and universal for PLHIV”. Currently, HIV is excluded from all insurance policies available in the country “violating the national mandate of providing stigma-free care and support services”. Union health ministry officials said that HIV/AIDS which was earlier regarded as a “incurable disease” has now become a “manageable health problem” and, therefore, should be included in medical insurance policies.

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Malaria vaccine a reality by 2015?

New Delhi | January 15, 2011

A malaria vaccine could be a reality by 2015. The most promising candidate now showing that it can protect children for 15 months. The efficacy of the vaccine, whose phase-II trial results have just been published in the British medical journal Lancet, reduced from 53% for eight months (during the phase-I study in 2008) to 46% when it protected for 15 months. Indian experts, however, claim that for a vaccine to be effective in the field, it has to give protection of over 75%. “At present, long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets give 60% protection, and its per capita cost is very low. Hence, a vaccine has to be at least 75% effective,” a vector-borne disease control programme expert said.

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