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

March 2011

India should be polio free in three years: Rotary International

Chandigarh |March 30, 2011
Rotary International expects India to be the first to be free of polio among the four countries where it runs a campaign and that should happen within three years, says its president Ray Klinginsmith. "As per our estimation, India will be the first of the four countries (the campaign is active in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) to be declared polio-free," Klinginsmith said. Rotary International will formally declare India a polio-free country within the next three years, he said. About the success of the 'Polio-free India' campaign, he pointed out: "There has been only a single case of polio reported in India over the last 11 months."

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Jharkhand to open generic drugs outlets

Ranchi | March 30, 2011

If the State government would have its way, ailing lots in Jharkhand would soon have access to cheaper and equally efficacious drugs. In its bid to lessen the cost of treatment, the State government has decided to open medical stores—Jan Aushadhi Kendras—at all the sadar hospitals across Jharkhand to sell all kinds of generic medicines, which are available in market less than half the cost of branded drugs usually prescribed by doctors. As per the Centre’s policy, the State Health and Family Welfare Department has sent a proposal seeking financial help to operationalise the project. The Ministry of Health offers Rs 2.50 lakh as grant to the State for opening of each generic drug centre.

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Poor infrastructure prime barrier for healthcare: Study

New Delhi | March 30, 2011
Lack of proper infrastructure is the foremost barrier to healthcare access, a new study says. According to the study conducted by Pune-based DY Patil Medical College and voluntary group India Health Progress, nearly 58 percent of the respondents consider poor infrastructure to be the main barrier in accessing healthcare facilities in the country. "Inadequate buildings, equipment and instruments and irregular staff are some of the barriers that restrict people from getting basic healthcare," the study said. "Of the total respondents in the survey, only 31 percent expressed inability to seek treatment in the past six months due to financial constraints," it stated. Over 80 percent respondents did not have access to health insurance cover.

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Old TB drugs, older tests driving spread of drug resistance: Gates

New Delhi | March 25, 2011

Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates said the large number of deaths in the world due to tuberculosis was unacceptable and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was all for supporting a low-cost affordable vaccine for the disease. “Whatever helps the poorest, we are committed to it,'' Mr. Gates said at an interaction with the media here on “Maximising India's Capacity: Creating an Ecosystem of Innovation and Research to Address Public Health Concerns,'' organised by the Ministry of Science and Technology. TB was preventable and treatable, but the most common TB test was more than 125 years old and it missed half the cases. By the time most TB patients were correctly diagnosed and treated, they may have unknowingly infected many others — creating an endless cycle.

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Health centres or garbage dumps?

New Delhi | March 25, 2011

Severely criticising the Manmohan Singh Government's flagship programme, the National Rural Health Mission, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has said it is a “fiasco”. In its report tabled in Parliament, the Committee said it found that health centres were being used as “godowns for storage of foodgrains and cowdung”. “A large number of sub-centres, primary health centres and community health centres are located in sub-standard environment such as garbage dumps, cattle sheds and stagnant waterbodies, and functioning in unhygienic conditions,” it noted. Besides, these centres lack water supply and storage tanks, facilities for disposal of sewage and bio-medical waste and separate utilities for men and women.

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Govt rolls back 5% service tax on healthcare

New Delhi | March 22, 2011

Faced with criticism from the Opposition and the medical fraternity, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rolled back the proposed five percent service tax on healthcare announced during the federal budget for 2011-12. "I have decided to exempt the new levy in its entirety, both in respect of services provided by hospitals as well as by way of diagnostic test until GST (Goods and Services Tax) comes into force," Mukherjee said in the Lok Sabha. In the federal budget for 2011-12, the Finance Minister had proposed to levy five per cent tax on services provided by hospitals with 25 or more beds that have facility of central air-conditioning and on diagnostic tests of all kinds.

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India to curb non-communicable diseases

New Delhi | March 17, 2011

India will start prioritising prevention of non-communicable diseases in its public health policy, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said. "There is now a growing realisation that the scourge of non-communicable diseases is on an ever increasing spiral. The sheer challenge of reducing mortality on account of non-communicable diseases and enhancing quality of life for our people makes this a risk worth taking," Azad said at the World Health Organisation's partners in health conference for Southeast Asian region.

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Five Haryana doctors jailed for offering foetal sex tests

Gurgaon | March 16, 2011

A local court awarded three-year rigorous imprisonment each to five Haryana doctors for illegally offering prenatal sex selection services to pregnant women. The accused worked as private practitioners in Palam Vihar area of Gurgaon. Besides the jail term, the court has also slapped a fine of Rs.1,000 on each of them. They were held guilty under Section 23 of the Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation & Prevention of Misuse) Act of 1994. The accused doctors were offering prenatal sex selection services to parents who wanted male offspring and were charging huge fees from them. They were running this illegal business from a private hospital named Albega Hospital, said a police officer.

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India forms task force for pharmacy sector

New Delhi | March 16, 2011

A 12-member task force that will evolve strategies for making India a hub for drug discovery and research was set up under the Chairmanship of Health Research Secretary VM Katoch, a Health Ministry release said. Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad constituted the task force to evolve a long-term strategy for addressing various issues faced by the Indian pharma industry, the release said.
Among the terms of reference would be to evolve a short, medium and long-term policy and strategy to make India a hub for drug discovery, research and development. It will also evolve strategies to further the interests of Indian pharma industry in the light of issues related to intellectual property rights and recommend strategies to capitalise the opportunity of US $60 to US $80 billion drugs going off-patent over the next five years.

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In 20 yrs, 20% more men than women

New Delhi | March 16, 2011

India will have 20% more men than women in the next two decades, thanks to sex-selective abortion and craze for male child in some states, according to a new study. Conducted by Dr Therese Hesketh and co-authors from the UCL Centre for International Health and Development, London, and published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the study says easy access to sex-selective abortions, has led to significant imbalances in the male/ female population in China, India and South Korea. Earlier, studies have said 5-7 lakh girls a year or 2,000 girls go missing in India daily due to female foeticide. In families, where one girl child already exists, the chances of a second girl being born are as low as 54%. In a family with two female children, the chances of third girl being born is as low as 20%.

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Changing Bihar focuses on health

Patna | March 22, 2011
As part of its Bihar Divas celebrations, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will launch a mega health scheme targeted at the 3.4 crore children in the state, officials said. Under the 'Nayee Peedhi Swasthya Guarantee Karyakram' (New Generation Health Guarantee Programme), children up to 14 years of age and adolescent girls will be provided a health card for their medical check-up and treatment free of cost at government hospitals. "This mega health scheme will check malnutrition, anaemia and childhood reproductive problems," Principal Health Secretary Amarjit Sinha said. The government planned to distribute health cards by Oct 2 this year, he added. However, he admitted that reaching out to all the children was a challenging task.

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Eradicate social stigma attached to tuberculosis

New Delhi | March 23, 2011

“India has the resources to win the war against tuberculosis, but we need to eradicate the social stigma attached to the disease. Early detection and completion of treatment is the most effective method to ensure that the disease is controlled and eradicated from India,” Union Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot said. She was speaking at the presentation of the REACH Lilly MDR-TB Partnership Media Awards. “Information technology can be used to tackle TB, and the local media is among the most effective tools of communication to reach out to the villages where a significant section of our population resides,” he said.

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Bill Gates lauds Health Ministry

New Delhi | March 23, 2011

Appreciating the efforts of the government in containing polio and HIV, software czar and philanthropist Bill Gates on Tuesday discussed issues relating to immunisation and pentavalent vaccine production with Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Mr. Gates and his wife Melinda called on Mr. Azad and discussed matters relating to the immunisation programme, pentavalent vaccine, polio vaccination efforts, HIV control and capacity building, senior officials said. Mr. Azad thanked the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for extending help in bringing about innovations in health, development and learning to the Indian community and urged Mr. Gates to continue their support for the fourth phase of the National AIDS Control Programme so that the momentum of the Programme was maintained.

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Social sector gets a generous ladle of funds

New Delhi | March 23, 2011

Giving more impetus to the social sector, chief minister Sheila Dikshit announced a string of new schemes for the lower strata of the society on Tuesday. Of the total planned budget of R13,600 crore, Dikshit allocated almost R 7,600 crore - about 56% of total budget outlay - on health, education, sanitation, social security and welfare schemes. In the R27,067-crore budget (both planned and non-planned), R1,801 crore went for health and R1,301 crore for education. Unveiling an ambitious universal free health facility, which will cover nearly 27 lakh school-going children up to the age of 14 years, and an initial corpus of R 100 crore has been proposed in the budget for this fiscal.

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Need to maintain prices, supply of drug-resistant tuberculosis medicines: Médecins Sans Frontières

New Delhi | March 24, 2011

As a new rapid diagnostic test, endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), will finally help detect more people with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), there was need to solve problems around the pricing and supply of DR-TB medicines, according to a report by international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The DR-TB is on the rise, but less than 7 per cent of 4,40,000 new cases each year receive treatment. It kills 150,000 people in the world annually, according to the WHO. India is one of the countries with the highest burden of DR-TB cases in the world, with more than 99,000 new cases each year.

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Maharashtra to augment facilities in rural hospitals

Mumbai | March 24, 2011

Maharashtra will augment medical facilities in non-metro cities and rural areas of the state, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Ajit Pawar announced while presenting the Budget for 2011-12. Pawar said that the government planned to provide patients the facility of X-ray and ECG at the primary health centres and blood banks at other rural hospitals. He said that an amount of Rs 241 crore has been sanctioned for construction of urban and rural health institutions under the Public Health Department, which include several hospitals and medical colleges. The Finance Minister said that the centrally-sponsored National Rural Health Mission is being implemented effectively in the state and the government would provide Rs 160 billion as its share.

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70% TB patients in India are under 50

New Delhi | March 24, 2011

Around 40% of India’s population is infected with the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. The majority however are dormant TB carriers. What’s most worrying is that almost 70% of TB patients are aged between 15 and 54 years. While two-thirds are male, TB takes a disproportionately larger toll among young females, with more than 50% of female cases occurring before 34 years of age, according to the Revised National TB Control Programme’s 2011 report. Director-general of health services Dr R K Srivastava says, “By the end of 2015, India will bring in universal access for quality diagnosis and treatment for all TB patients in the community. The programme aims to achieve early detection and treatment of 90% of estimated TB cases in the community, including HIV associated TB and successful treatment 90% of all new TB patients and 85% of all previously-treated TB patients.”

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TB programme mismanaged in State

Bhubaneswar | March 25, 2011

Despite the State being prone to tuberculosis infection, the State government miserably failed to wake up to the situation, revealed a Citizen Report Card brought out by citizen forums on the occasion of of World TB Day. “The State government has been able to spend less than 50 per cent of the budget. Against budgetary availability of Rs.14.46 crore for 2010-11, only Rs. 4.72 crore has been spent, which is 33 per cent,” said the report. The progress report was prepared by Odisha Rajya Rogi Adhikar Manch (ORRAM) and Loka Samukhya, Odisha (LAO). TB was preventable and treatable, but the most common TB test was more than 125 years old and it missed half the cases. By the time most TB patients were correctly diagnosed and treated, they may have unknowingly infected many others — creating an endless cycle.


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Family planning strategy to be tweaked

New Delhi | March 14, 2011

The government is ready to reposition its family planning strategy by focusing on maternal health and not just population control, an official from health and family welfare ministry said. "The government wants to reposition the approach towards family planning by focusing on the health of the mother and the child. It is a part of our strategy to bring down the maternal mortality rate in the country, said Kiran Ambwani, deputy commissioner, family planning division, in the ministry. "The broader perspective is to stagger the population momentum by increasing the time space between children, Ambwani said at the launch of second phase of "Pehel", a project to help women on birth control through intra-uterine devices (IUDs). IUD, a form of birth control where a T-shaped object is inserted in the uterus, is considered to be a quick and safe way to prevent pregnancy.

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Government plans women's health campaign

New Delhi |Monday, 2011
The Indian government's premier agency for science communication, Vigyan Prasar, is planning to launch a nation-wide programme to educate women on health related issues. "This is the first time when Vigyan Prasar is going to launch a programme for educating women about their health in different parts of the country," Anuj Sinha, director of Vigyan Prasar, told on the sidelines of a media event. He said the programme will be started in Delhi soon on a pilot basis. Emphasising the need of communication, Sinha said, "Scientists generally believe that research is most important. But it is time to think that communication is as important as research." "Vigyan Prasar will develop communication strategies and programme to reach out to the target women," said Kinkini Das Gupta Mishra, who will be heading the new programme.

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Panel Set Up By PM Says, Prices Of Drugs Have Increased 170% Compared To 70% For Other Commodities

New Delhi | March 14, 2011

The government's bid to provide healthcare to all may not work, if the prices of drugs continue to rise at the present, a high-level expert group on health opined. A study done by a group formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prepare a road map for providing healthcare to all citizens by 2020 has said the prices of drugs and medicines have increased 170% compared to 70% for other commodities since late 1990. The high cost of medical facilities has resulted in 28% of ailments in rural India, whereas 20% of population in urban areas goes untreated. And, of those who get hospitalised, 47% in rural India and 31% in urban India have to sell their assets to pay for medical expenses.

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Woman gives birth outside hospital, baby dies

Agra | March 03, 2011

A female labourer gave birth under a tree in the city of Taj Mahal after a hospital refused to admit her. The baby died immediately after birth and the woman was admitted to the hospital after her family created a ruckus. The incident took place outside the gynaecology ward of S.N. Medical College. Lalloo Singh, from Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, said he had come with his family to Agra only a few months ago. On Monday evening, he brought his pregnant wife Toli, 30, to the hospital.

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HIV patients say ‘no' to IP provision on generic drugs

New Delhi | March 03, 2011

People in Asia living with HIV and who depend on affordable generic AIDS medicines to stay alive have impressed upon the Indian government to stand strong against European Union demands on the sensitive Intellectual Property (IP) chapter in ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations. The EU is pushing for harmful IP provisions to be included in the trade agreement that will hinder access to quality, affordable generic medicines produced in India, the “pharmacy of the developing world,” they pointed out.

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India nod to upscale TB control project

New Delhi | March 03, 2011

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for scaling up services for diagnosis, care and management of Drug Resistant Tuberculosis under Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) with assistance from Global Fund at an estimated cost of Rs 649.02 crore. The upgradation envisages procurement of second line drugs, scaling up of laboratory services and provision of technical assistance.
With the scaling up of diagnosis, care and management services for Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB), the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) will establish 43 state- of -art laboratories using latest diagnostic technologies throughout the country.

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THSTI,IAVI announce new HIV vaccine design program in India

New Delhi | March 04, 2011

The Translational Health Sciences and Technology Institute (THSTI), an autonomous institute of the Indian government's Department of Biotechnology, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) has announced an agreement to jointly establish, operate and fund an HIV Vaccine Design Program in India. The program will include the establishment of a new laboratory on the campus of THSTI in New Delhi. The program will primarily focus on one of the greatest scientific challenges of AIDS vaccine design and development: the elicitation of antibodies capable of neutralizing a broad spectrum of circulating HIV variants, a problem that stems in large part from the almost unparalleled mutability of HIV.

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Gender crisis continues to haunt conservative Haryana

Rohtak/Karnal | March 07, 2011

Rampant sex-selective abortions has led to Haryana having the most distorted sex ratio in the country: it has 861 girls per 1,000 boys under the age of six, against a national average of 927 girls. And in the year the girls kept India’s flag flying in the CW Games and Guangzhou Asian Games, the sex ratio dipped to 834 girls for 1,000 boys. In the conservative Haryana, where culture norms frown upon inter-caste and same-gotra marriages, young men travel to Bihar, Assam, Chattisgarh. Orissa, West Bengal and Kerala to find brides. In such cases, caste, culture and affluence is not considered. Banning sex-determination and offering cash incentives for a girl’s birth have made no difference to this state obsessed with sons.

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Panel to pinpoint malaria death figure

New Delhi | March 07, 2011

How many people die of malaria in the country every year? The government is not sure and has, therefore, formed a 16-member expert group under the chairmanship of Dr Padam Singh, former additional director-general of Indian Council of Medical Research, to pinpoint the country’s exact malaria deaths. According to figures from the country’s National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), India records around 1,000 deaths every year due to malaria. The World Health Organisation, on the other hand, says that 15,000 people die of malaria annually in India.

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Indian men lead in sexual violence, worst on gender equality: Survey

New Delhi | March 07, 2011

Nearly one in four Indian men has committed sexual violence at some point in their lives and one in five has forced his wife or partner to have sex. The findings of a recent International Men and Gender Equality Survey reflect a new low for Indian men. Only 2% Brazilian males and less than 9% of men in Chile, Croatia, Mexico and Rwanda were found to have indulged in sexual violence. The survey was conducted in six developing countries. Researchers from the International Centre for Research on Women and Instituto Promundo in Brazil interviewed over 8,000 men and 3,500 women, aged 18 to 59, from these countries. Indians were ranked last on the ‘gender equitable men’ scale, given that only 17% qualified to the ‘highly equitable’ category.

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Cisco India to pep up healthcare solution

New Delhi | March 08, 2011

Cisco will continue to deepen and widen its focus on driving healthcare initiatives in India, especially in the area of remote and virtual healthcare. Announcing this at Cisco’s first industry event for healthcare in India, Cisco Services and Healthcare Business Unit Vice President Vishal Gupta said to achieve its target Cisco was working closely with both the central and state governments and various private bodies to implement remote healthcare initiatives in rural India. Cisco’s technology along with its ecosystem network gives an impetus to India’s efforts for providing quality and affordable healthcare wherever required, Cisco VP said

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Earlier families wanted at least one son; now they want one son only

Chandigarh | March 08, 2011

“Earlier, families wanted at least one son. Now they want one son only!” says Dr. Sabu George who has been working in the field of female foeticide for over two decades. According to experts, selective elimination of unborn females in Punjab is not just the result of backward social attitude but years of marketing by doctors who promoted the idea of foeticide as sensible social investment. Terming the practice of aborting a foetus after sex determination as “medical terrorism”, Dr. George said that while society has always been unkind to women, the sudden eruption in male births is entirely due to easy availability of technology and the shameless manner in which doctors market the procedure to the educated elite.

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43% of underage married girls suffer marital violence: Survey

New Delhi | March 09, 2011

Adolescent marriage and domestic violence are two widely prevalent but unacknowledged practices. Recent studies on the married life of adolescent girls reveal a chilling link between the two. Anita Raj of Boston University School of Public Health, involved in several such studies said that adolescent marriage appears to be directly correlated with increased violence at home: emotional, physical and sexual, practiced both by the husband and the in-laws. It is unabated even during pregnancy and motherhood. And, most sobering of all, female children born to under-age mothers suffer from higher risks of dying before they reach their fifth birthday.

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Verdict Supreme Court rules woman, her family cannot be treated as accused under Dowry Act

New Delhi | March 09, 2011

A woman and her family members cannot be treated as accused under the Dowry Prohibition Act for giving dowry at the time of marriage, the Supreme Court has said. A bench of Justices HS Bedi and CK Prasad upheld the Delhi High Court verdict that quashed a criminal case against a girl stating a dowry harassment victim was protected under the law and, could not be charged under the Act. Two separate benches of the Delhi HC had taken divergent views on the issue. While Justice SN Dhingra (since retd) held the woman and her family could be prosecuted for giving dowry, Justice Ajit Bharihoke had said it could not be done. The SC order clarifies the legal position regarding the culpability of an alleged dowry-giver bride.

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Invest more in female health workers: NGO

New Delhi | March 09, 2011

Save the Children, an NGO has called for greater investment in female health workers as essential to saving mothers' and children's lives. It is estimated that globally, 74 per cent of mothers' lives could be saved if they had access to a skilled health worker at delivery and emergency obstetrics care for complications, and 63 per cent of children under the age of five could be saved if all children were to receive a full package of essential healthcare, which includes skilled birth attendance, immunisation, and treatment for pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.

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J&K to upgrade healthcare facilities

Srinagar | March 10. 2011

Jammu and Kashmir has submitted a comprehensive Rs 2600 crore plan to the Centre for upgradation of healthcare facilities in the state, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma said. He assured the House that opening of new and upgradation of existing health centres in remote and hilly areas would be given priority under the programme in the coming years. Besides, 400 health centers operating on internal arrangement presently would also be regularized, he said. Due consideration would be given to upgrade healthcare facilities in every constituency under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), he added.

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Jharkhand, Unicef join hands to fight anaemia

Ranchi | March 11, 2011

Jharkhand government’s fight against anaemia has got a boost with the Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund) joining hands this week. The campaign against the disease, particularly among teenage girls in rural areas of the state, was kicked up with the release of the latest edition of Unicef’s annual publication—The State of the World’s Children-2011. According to Unicef’s Jharkhand Chief Job Zacharia they have targeted about 70 lakh adolescents between the age of 10-19 years to help them fight the disease. Under the campaign, Health Department officials, non-governmental organisations and self-help groups would encourage young girls to take iron folic acid (IFA) tablets along with fruits, green vegetables, sprouts, lentils and salads in their intake habits.

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Plan to restrict sale of abortion pills

Mumbai | March 13, 2011

Concerned about the skewed sex ratio in Maharashtra, the State Government has decided to restrict sale of ‘abortion pills' by including them in scheduled drugs' list. As a result, the pills would not be available without doctor's prescription. “We are planning to make medical prescription compulsory for buying the abortion pills...I have given directions to include the pills in scheduled category,” Health Minister Suresh Shetty has said. The decision came after a meeting of a State-level committee appointed to implement the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex selection) Act, 1994.

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Will a female birth control vaccine work?

Bangalore | March 13, 2011
A birth control vaccine will not become a reality in the near future despite the high hopes of the Indian government, predicts a leading researcher at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) here. But another researcher says a vaccine for women could hold out hope. None of the vaccines proposed by scientists actually met the requirements for use as a contraceptive vaccine for human application and "one may conclude that immuno-contraception (birth control vaccine) has no place in fertility control," he said in a report in the journal Current Science.

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Jodhpur pregnancy deaths: Toll rises to 16

Jodhpur | March 13, 2011

Since the second week of February, 16 pregnant women have died of excessive bleeding at Umaid Hospital after they were allegedly administered contaminated IV fluids. The hospital administration had lodged a first information report against the Indore-based firm which manufactured the fluids, following which its quality control manager Sanjay Shah was arrested. However, the autopsy report of one of the women March 10 said infection was the cause of her death. A report prepared by a team of doctors from SMS Hospital in Jaipur had also said the deaths could be because of hospital-generated infection.

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India's health budget goes up by 20%

New Delhi | Feb 28, 2011

India's health allocation has been hiked by 20 per cent to Rs 26,760 crore for the sector with special focus on research, insurance cover for marginal workers and medical education. "For health, I propose to step up the plan allocations in 2011-12 by 20 per cent to Rs 26,760 crore,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said while presenting budget. He also said the Rashtriya Swasthya Beema Yojana has "emerged as an effective instrument for providing health cover to marginal workers". Expenditure on public health has however seen a dip in the budget allocation. In the last budget, the area got the maximum focus with Rs 2,536 crore allocated to tackle vector control diseases, mental health, TB, blindness and leprosy. This has come down to Rs 1,906 crore in this budget. The budget allocation for NRHM has risen slightly — from Rs 13,463 last year to Rs 16,056 crore in this budget.

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