Topic started by Dravidan (@ 220.127.116.11) on Wed Oct 30 23:15:24 .
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Indians in for drop in life expectancy
From D Ravi Kanth DH News Service GENEVA, Oct 30
Millions of Indians are expected to suffer a sharp drop in their life expectancy due to under weight, unsafe WS&H (water, sanitation, and hygiene), indoor smoke from coal and other solid fuels, unsafe sex, iron deficiency, blood pressure, tobacco, cholesterol, zinc deficiency, and low fruit and vegetable intake, according to the Geneva-based World Health Organization.
In its “World Health Report 2002 - Preventing Risks Promoting Healthy Life” released today, the WHO has placed India in the category where risks to health are evenly placed among the the extreme rich and the downtrodden due to conflicting factors.
It’s a wake-up call to the Indian government, which has done little in the realm of public health and compounded the problems of the poor that are subject to a long list of diseases, says a representative of the People’s Health Assembly.
The WHO’s Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was Norway’s prime minister in 90s, says the contrast between the rich and poor people exposed to potential risk factors that reduce life expectancy is “shocking”.
The new report, which is the first of its kind, focuses on what are called principal global risks to three Ds — disease, disability and death — in the world today. “This report brings out for the first time that 40 per cent of global deaths are due to just the 10 biggest risk factors, while the next 10 risk factors add less than 10 per cent,” says Alan Lopez, the WHO’s Senior Science Advisor and Co-director of the Report.
The rich in India who have more monies to spend on processed foods, alcohol, tobacco, and increased consumption of sweets, are exposed to high blood pressure, increased cardio-vascular problems, and other non-communicable diseases which annually kill tens of millions of people.
In contrast, the poor in India are forced to live with a different set of risks. Childhood and maternal underweight, a problem that stems from iron and other deficiencies, leads to at least a million deaths in the country while globally it causes 3.4 million deaths.
While the burden from many of the risks is borne almost exclusively by the developing world, India’s track record in containing this problem is far from satisfaction. Besides, the poor also are denied WS&H, which leads to cholera and other water-borne diseases.
In addition, the Indian poor also die in large numbers due to indoor pollution, a problem that occurs because of inhaling harmful gases from the cow dung and coal, says the WHO report. To compound the miseries further, the Indian poor likes tobacco and engages in unsafe sex that contributes to the HIV/AIDS.
While the monies required to help the poor overcome some of the risks identified in the WHO report are huge, especially for providing clean drinking water and hygiene facilities, in some other areas the cost of intervention is relatively cheap. What is required according to the WHO is a sense of political commitment from the government of the day as cost of inaction is serious.
Besides, the Indian government, which has one of the worst public health outlays for combating killer diseases or even for normal preventable risks, cannot afford to take the problem lightly, argued the People’s Health Assembly representative.
“The government and the private health care programmes care only the rich which suffer over non-communicable diseases like blood pressure, but pay little attention to improving the environment in which millions of poor people live,” the representative said.
“Although the WHO report carries some ominous warnings, it also opens the door to a healthier future for all countries — if they are prepared to act boldly now,” says Dr Christopher Murry, Executive Director of WHO’s Global Program on Evidence for Health Policy.
“In order to know which interventions and strategies to use, governments must first be able to assess and compare the magnitude of risks accurately,” he said.