'Many more weeks' to come in fierce, deadly flu season, CDC says
NEW YORK, Jan 26: This year's seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States, as health authorities track additional deaths and hospitalizations -- and there's more of the season left.
Influenza activity continues to be widespread in all states except Hawaii, according to the weekly flu report released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All while, based on the latest data, the flu season has not even peaked yet, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.
"Hopefully we're in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come," Nordlund said.
The deaths of seven more children were reported this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths for the season, which began in October, to 37.
There were 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported from October 1 to January 20. The number of people infected with influenza could be much higher because not everyone goes to their doctor when they are sick nor do doctors test every patient.
Additionally, there were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. That's an increase from the week before on par with the increases the CDC has noticed from week to week for the past couple of weeks.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, but also turn deadly.
"It's still not too late to get vaccinated, as we're starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity," she said, adding that if you think you have flu or if you are at a high risk for complications from flu, it is important to seek care early.
"Influenza antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for people at high risk, which includes children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes -- in children, a big category includes those with neurologic or developmental disorders," she said.
Nut consumption can lower the risk of heart disease: Study
SYDNEY, Dec 12: According to a recent study funded by the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council (INC), consumption of nuts has beneficial effects on the human health.
The study examined the effect of the intake of nuts on inflammatory biomarkers and endothelial function associated with cardiovascular disease. It also analyzed the intake of total and specific types of nuts and heart health. The study has been published in the BMJ Open journal. Here are 5 reasons why nuts are good for your heart.
The study reviewed around 36 articles describing 32 studies. As per the study reports, the nuts were consumed in prescribed doses of 18 to 85g/day or as a specific percentage of the dietary energy. Hence, not all the study participants were given the same amount of nuts. It was found that nuts had a positive impact on the flow-mediated dilation, which is a measure of the endothelial function. Any dysfunction in the endothelial health and function were associated with cardiovascular disease.
The study findings were in accordance with those observed by the European Food Safety Authority in 2011 which claimed that ‘Walnuts contribute to the improvement of the elasticity of blood vessels’.
Prof. Linda Tapsell and her colleague, Dr Elizabeth Neale at University of Wollongong (Australia), Principal Investigators of the research study said, "This research helps to identify the mechanisms by which nut consumption may contribute to reduced cardiovascular disease risk in the context of a heart-healthy diet. It adds to the scientific evidence which is built upon with continued research.” Here are heart-healthy diet tips for people with heart disease.
As firms protest, US tries to dictate India’s drugs policy
NEW DELHI, Oct 26: The US government has asked the Indian government not to cap prices of any more medical devices until the two jointly work out a "mutually beneficial" policy solution to address the Indian government's priorities related to patient costs.
A letter from US trade representative (USTR), Robert E Lighthizer, dated September 18 to commerce minister Suresh Prabhu and principal secretary to the PM, Nripendra Misra, said he was following up on specific concerns related to price controls on coronary stents that US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and he had raised with PM Modi when he visited Washington in June.
Pointing out that controls had also been extended to orthopaedic implants, the USTR said the policy was "very troubling". He said the US was committed to working with India to identify a policy solution that will address Indian government's priorities relating to patient costs but would also promote trade, innovation, and access to most advanced technologies. "Until such a policy is developed, I urge you not to expand price controls to additional medical devices," he added.
In a veiled threat, the USTR said statements by Indian government officials on expanding price controls to more medical devices was making US producers rethink their presence in India and discouraging them from introducing latest technologies, which could adversely affect India's appeal as a medical tourism destination.
The letter claimed the pricing policy had created serious problems for US companies selling devices in India. "The National Pharmaceutical Pri- cing Authority's (NPPA) order on coronary stents does not sufficiently differentiate dr- ug-eluting stents based on the level of technology. This has disproportionately affected the most innovative and advanced stents," it stated. Claiming the NPPA ceiling price is below the cost of production for the "most innovative stents" it said NPPA's refusal to allow US firms to withdraw those products has forced them to continue to sell at a significant loss.
Lighthizer said the policies discouraged long-term investment in Indian market.
It was reported on Wednesday that US medical device makers had called for trade action against India.
Pollution causes one in four premature deaths in India, the worst in the world: Lancet study
NEW DELHI, Oct 20: Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.
One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in The Lancet medical journal. Asia and Africa are the regions putting the most people at risk, the study found, while India tops the list of individual countries.
The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2% of the global economy.
“There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change,” said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the lead author on the report.
One out of every four premature deaths in India in 2015, or some 2.5 million, was attributed to pollution, the study found. China’s environment was the second deadliest, with more than 1.8 million premature deaths, or one in five, blamed on pollution-related illness.
New Delhi covered in a toxic haze on Friday morning after Diwali fireworks caused air quality levels to plummet despite a ban on sale of fireworks by the Supreme Court.
Several other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, North Korea, South Sudan and Haiti also see nearly a fifth of their premature deaths caused by pollution.
The report marks the first attempt to pull together data on disease and death caused by all forms of pollution combined.
“Pollution is a massive problem that people aren’t seeing because they’re looking at scattered bits of it,” Landrigan said.
Experts say the 9 million premature deaths the study found was just a partial estimate, and the number of people killed by pollution is undoubtedly higher and will be quantified once more research is done and new methods of assessing harmful impacts are developed.
Areas like Sub-Saharan Africa have yet to even set up air pollution monitoring systems. Soil pollution has received scant attention. And there are still plenty of potential toxins still being ignored, with less than half of the 5,000 new chemicals widely dispersed throughout the environment since 1950 having been tested for safety or toxicity.
To reach its figures, the study’s authors used methods outlined by the US Environmental Protection Agency for assessing field data from soil tests, as well as with air and water pollution data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study run by institutions including the World Health Organization and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
Even the conservative estimate of 9 million pollution-related deaths is one-and-a-half times higher than the number of people killed by smoking, three times the number killed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, more than six times the number killed in road accidents, and 15 times the number killed in war or other forms of violence, according to GBD tallies.
It is most often the world’s poorest who suffer. The vast majority of pollution-related deaths — 92% — occur in low- or middle-income developing countries, where policy makers are chiefly concerned with developing their economies, lifting people out of poverty and building basic infrastructure, the study found. Environmental regulations in those countries tend to be weaker, and industries lean on outdated technologies and dirtier fuels.
In wealthier countries where overall pollution is not as rampant, it is still the poorest communities that are more often exposed, the report says.
“What people don’t realize is that pollution does damage to economies. People who are sick or dead cannot contribute to the economy. They need to be looked after,” said Richard Fuller, head of the global toxic watchdog Pure Earth and one of the 47 scientists, policy makers and public health experts who contributed to the 51-page report.
“There is this myth that finance ministers still live by, that you have to let industry pollute or else you won’t develop, he said. “It just isn’t true.”
The report cites EPA research showing that the US has gained some $30 in benefits for every dollar spent on controlling air pollution since 1970, when Congress enacted the Clean Air Act, one of the world’s most ambitious environmental laws. Removing lead from gasoline has earned the US economy another $6 trillion cumulatively since 1980, according to studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some experts cautioned, however, that the report’s economic message was murky. Reducing the pollution quantified in the report might impact production, and so would not likely translate into gains equal to the $4.6 trillion in economic losses.
The report “highlights the social and economic justice of this issue,” said Marc Jeuland, associate professor with the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University, who was not involved in the study.
Without more concrete evidence for how specific policies might lead to economic gains, “policy makers will often find it difficult to take action, and this report thus only goes part way in making the case for action,” he said.
Jeuland also noted that, while the report counts mortality by each pollutant, there are possible overlaps — for example, someone exposed to both air pollution and water contamination — and actions to address one pollutant may not reduce mortality.
“People should be careful not to extrapolate from the US numbers on net (economic) benefits, because the net effects of pollution control will not be equivalent across locations,” he said.
The study’s conclusions on the economic cost of pollution measure lost productivity and health care costs, while also considering studies measuring people’s “willingness to pay” to reduce the probability of dying. While these types of studies yield estimates at best, they are used by many governments and economists trying to understand how societies value individual lives.
While there has never been an international declaration on pollution, the topic is gaining traction.
The World Bank in April declared that reducing pollution, in all forms, would now be a global priority. And in December, the United Nations will host its first-ever conference on the topic of pollution.
“The relationship between pollution and poverty is very clear,” said Ernesto Sanchez-Triana, lead environmental specialist at the World Bank. “And controlling pollution would help us address many other problems, from climate change to malnutrition. The linkages can’t be ignored.”
‘Pen’ to identify cancer in 10 seconds, 150 times faster than existing technology
NEW YORK, Sept 7: Scientists have invented a pen-like device that can identify cancerous tissue during surgery and deliver over 96 % accurate results in just 10 seconds. The MasSpec Pen is more than 150 times faster than existing technology.
It is an innovative disposable hand-held instrument that gives surgeons precise diagnostic information about what tissue to cut or preserve, helping improve treatment and reducing chances of cancer relapse.
“If you talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the first things many will say is - I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out,” said lead researcher Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, Assistant Professor at The University of Texas at Austin. “It’s just heartbreaking when that’s not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds leading surgeons to really remove every last trace of cancer during surgery,” Eberlin added.
For the study, described in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team conducted tests on tissues samples, which included both normal and cancerous ones in the breast, lungs, thyroid and ovaries, removed from 253 human cancer patients.
Using the MasSpec Pen, the researchers extracted and analysed the metabolites - small molecules - in the tissues and obtained a molecular fingerprint of the tissue, which was then instantaneously evaluated by software called ‘statistical classifier’. When the MasSpec Pen completes the analysis, the words ‘Normal’ or ‘Cancer’ automatically appears on a computer screen. It requires simply holding the pen against the patient’s tissues, triggering the automated analysis using a foot pedal, and waiting a few seconds for the result.
The pen releases a drop of water onto the tissue, and small molecules migrate into the water. Then the device drives the water sample into an instrument called a mass spectrometer, which detects molecular fingerprints of thousands of molecules. The researchers expect to start testing this new technology during oncologic surgeries in 2018.
61 more children die in Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College
LUCKNOW, Aug 30: Days after alleged disruption in oxygen supply resulted in deaths of over 30 children within 48 hours at Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, 61 children died there in the last 72 hours, spreading panic in the hospital again.
The latest deaths were due to various ailments, including encephalitis, health complexities in newborns, pneumonia, sepsis etc, whose patients have been flooding the hospital, leading to overcrowding.
On August 27, 28 and 29, 61 deaths were recorded at the hospital — 11 in the encephalitis ward, 25 in neonatal intensive care unit (NNICU) and another 25 in the general pediatric ward.
Local doctors said the number of deaths will increase in the coming days due to heavy rainfall, floods and water-logging which foster the spread of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES).
Exercise pill closer to reality: Study
LONDON, Aug 27: An exercise pill — which can induce the health benefits of physical activity — may be closer to reality, as scientists have identified the mechanism that switches on the exercise response in the body.
Researchers from University of Leeds in the UK found that a protein called Piezo1 in the lining of blood vessels is able to detect a change in blood flow during exercise.
During physical activity — as the heart pumps more blood around the body — the Piezo1 protein in the endothelium or lining of the arteries taking blood from the heart to the stomach and intestines senses the increased pressure on the wall of the blood vessels.
In response, it slightly alters the electrical balance in the endothelium and this results in the blood vessels constricting, researchers said. In a clever act of plumbing, that narrowing of the blood vessels reduces blood flow to the stomach and intestines,allowing more blood to reach the brain and muscles actively engaged in exercise.
“If we can understand how these systems work, then we maybe able to develop techniques that can help tackle some of the biggest diseases afflicting modern societies,” said David Beech, professor at University of Leeds. “We know that exercise can protect against heart disease,stroke and many other conditions. This study has identified a physiological system that senses when the mammalian body is exercising,” Beech added.
Researchers also investigated the effect of an experimental compound called Yoda1 — named after the character from Star Wars — on the action of the Piezo1 protein. They found that it mimicked the action of increasing blood flow on the walls of the endothelium which is experienced during physical activity, raising the possibility that a drug could be developed which enhances the health benefits of exercise. “One of our ideas is that Piezo1 has a special role in controlling blood flow to the intestines. This is really an important part of the body when we think about the metabolic syndrome which is associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes,” Beech said.
By modifying this protein in the intestines, some of the problems of diabetes may be tackled. Perhaps the Yoda1 compound could target the Piezo1 in the intestinal area to have a functional effect, researchers said. “It may be that by understanding the working of the Yoda1 experimental molecule on the Piezo1 protein, we can move a step closer to having a drug that can help control some major chronic conditions,” they said. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.
Gujarat Swine Flu Deaths Increase To 323
AHMEDABAD, Aug 26: With seven persons dying of swine flu since yesterday, deaths due to the disease in Gujarat since January have reached 323, an official release said.
A bulletin issued by the Health Department said seven patients infected by H1N1 virus died in the last 24 hours, while 197 new cases of swine flu were detected.
A total of 1,204 patients are undergoing treatment for swine flu across government and private hospitals in the state, with 21 put on ventilator, it said.
The mortality rate among swine flu patients is around 7.5 per cent this year, it added.
Officials are inspecting facilities for swine flu treatment at private hospitals, and issuing notices where the facilities are not satisfactory, said the department.
Over 900 persons, who have come in contact with confirmed swine flu patients, are being 'tracked' (to check whether they too have caught the infection).
Gujarat records 31 swine flu deaths in 3 days, toll rises to 210
AHMEDABAD, Aug 16: A spate of deaths due to swine flu across Gujarat dampened the festive spirit during Janmashtami, with the state government issuing an advisory for people to stay away from the annual festival fairs which draw lakhs of people.
An alarming 31 swine flu (H1N1) deaths have been reported in just three days (Sunday to Tuesday) from different parts of the state. As many as 13 people died on Sunday, 11 on Monday and seven on Tuesday, mostly in four major cities – Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot – where hospitals receive a majority of the cases.
Since January, the influenza has claimed 210 lives in the state.
“While all government hospitals are well equipped to treat patients, a dedicated helpline number 104 has been launched,” said Health Commissioner Jayanti Ravi.
This season the state has witnessed a total 1,883 H1N1 cases so far. Out of this, 681 people have been have been cured, 994 are under treatment while 210 have died, according to the government’s latest health bulletin.
On Tuesday, seven persons infected with the virus died. Two deaths were reported from Kutch, one death each was reported from Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Gir Somnath, Sabarkantha and Surat.
As many as 129 new cases of swine flu were registered on Tuesday, including 55 in Ahmedabad, 31 in Vadodara, six in Gandhinagar and five in Junagadh, among others.
The spurt in cases prompted Chief Minister Vijay Rupani to hold a review meeting with senior government officials over the weekend.
The government announced that 17,000 teams have launched an intense door-to-door surveillance across the state by roping in ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) and Anganwadi workers besides malarial surveillance squads.
Around 40,000 Anganwadi workers, over 5,000 doctors and 3,000 AYUSH doctors are part of these teams, an official release said.
The heart cannot regenerate tissues and heal itself, says new study
WASHINGTON DC, June 6: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One of the reasons for that is the nature of the muscle. According to a new study, a group of researchers have found that the heart muscle is one of the least renewable tissues in the body. The team has studied pathways known to be involved in heart cell functions and discovered a previously unknown connection between processes that keep the heart from repairing itself. The study was published in the journal Nature.
“We are investigating the question of why the heart muscle doesn’t renew. In this study, we focused on two pathways of cardiomyocytes or heart cells; the Hippo pathway, which is involved in stopping renewal of adult cardiomyocytes, and the dystrophin glycoprotein complex (DGC) pathway, essential for cardiomyocyte normal functions,” shared senior author Dr James Martin, professor and Vivian L Smith Chair in Regenerative Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Previous work had hinted that components of the DGC pathway may somehow interact with members of the Hippo pathway. In this research, Martin and colleagues studied the consequences of this interaction in animal models. The researchers genetically engineered mice to lack genes involved in one or both pathways, and then determined the ability of the heart to repair an injury.
These studies showed for the first time that dystroglycan 1, a component of the DGC pathway, directly binds to Yap, a part of the Hippo pathway, and that this interaction inhibited cardiomyocyte proliferation. Martin shared, “The discovery that the Hippo and the DGC pathways connect in the cardiomyocyte, and that together they act as ‘brakes’ or stop signals to cell proliferation opens the possibility that by disrupting this interaction, one day it might be possible to help adult cardiomyocytes proliferate and heal injuries caused by a heart attack, for example.”
Another long-term application of this discovery could be to improve cardiac function in children with muscular dystrophy. “Patients with muscular dystrophy can have severe reduction in cardiac function. Our findings may help to design medicines to slow down cardiac decline in muscular dystrophy by stimulating cardiomyocyte proliferation. In order to do that, we need more research to understand cardiomyocyte growth control pathways in greater detail,” explained Martin.
Stunning 70-year-old granny is going viral for her ageless beauty and fitness
JUNE 4: From the fabled fountain of youth centuries ago to an array of anti-aging cosmetics curing a miracle cure in modern times, the human race has always been seeking a way to stay young with passing years. But some people have time and again set a benchmark for preserving their youth as they defeated age with strict fitness and beauty regimes.
A 70-year-old woman from Australia is giving fitness goals to an entire generation with her ageless features and a stunning bikini body that she has maintained. But while people may try to figure out an elaborate diet plan for achieving such a body at an old age, Carolyn Hartz says only excluding white refined sugar from her diet is the secret.
The grandmother of four believes in being active and keeping diet in check as she has also taken up lawn tennis while getting closer to the age of 70. The reason she quit refined sugar was being diagnosed with diabetes 30 years back, and her blood sugar level normalised in a year.
Hartz then went on to start an artificial sweetener firm and added a lot of walking, eight hours of sleep, meditation and sports to her routine. She does confess to having gone through minor plastic surgery which has led to people calling her fake, but Carolyn is undeterred.
She advises young people to be happy, see the glass as half full and not worry too much about age.
Zika virus detected in India, first three cases confirmed in Gujarat
NEW DELHI, May 27: India has detected its first cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, with three people, including a pregnant woman, reporting the infection in Ahmedabad, the World Health organisation (WHO) said on Saturday.
The cases were reported from the Bapunagar area of Gujarat’s largest city. The first infection was detected in February last year, the second in November and the latest one this January.
No new cases of the non-fatal disease have since been found.
The WHO termed the findings “low-level transmission” but warned that new cases of the disease linked to babies born with underdeveloped brains could occur in the future.
The UN agency said the cases were picked up during random monitoring and surveillance at the BJ Medical College in Ahmedabad. The patients were a 64-year-old man, a 34-year-old new mother and a 22-year-old pregnant woman.
“We were concerned about the babies. Luckily, both mothers and the babies are fine,” Dr Soumya Swaminathan, director-general, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), told Hindustan Times.
“The third case was of a man with fever, who tested negative for both dengue and chikungunya but positive for Zika.”
The virus is transmitted by aedes aegypti mosquito, the same mosquito that transmits dengue and chikungunya.
In pregnant women, Zika can cause birth defects such as microcephaly -- unusually small heads -- and other brain abnormalities in babies in the womb. The infection can also cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes paralysis.
There is no treatment or vaccine for the Zika infection.
The virus can show symptoms such as mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. But only about 20% of patients show symptoms that usually last up to a week.
As standard protocol, the Indian health ministry informed the WHO about the cases on May 15.
The Gujarat government said all three patients had recovered.
“The situation is under control. All the necessary steps have been taken and since then no fresh cases have been reported,” minister of state for health Shankar Chaudhary told HT.
The central government has shared with states an action plan to prevent an outbreak of Zika. A team of officials has been put together to monitor the situation. The ICMR has so far tested 34,233 samples for Zika.
“We had also expanded the mosquito testing network after the cases were reported but luckily none of the mosquito pools tested positive for the virus. We will continue the surveillance,” said Dr Swaminathan.
80 % Cancer is Curable: AIIMS Cancer Chief G.K. Rath
By Deepak Arora
NEW DELHI, April 15: Prominent socio- political- cultural NGO, Delhi Study Group led by Ex. Delhi MLA and President Vijay Jolly felicitated and honored Prof. G.K. Rath, Cancer Chief AIIMS (All India Institute of Medical Sciences) for pioneer research in curing cancer in India.
Prof. G.K. Rath was honored with a shawl, citation and trophy by Delhi Study Group. The Convener of the program Prof. Ashok Sharma is a Research Scholar at AIIMS & Secretary Delhi Study Group.
Currently Head National Cancer Institute, AIIMS, Jhajjar Haryana & Professor Radiation Oncology, AIIMS, New Delhi delivered the keynote address as Chief Speaker on "Cancer is Curable" at a overcrowded public program at Constitution Club.
Prof. G.K. Rath gave a video and audio presentation on Cancer attended by eminent doctors, lawyers, student leaders, diplomats, ex-army men, scientists, educationists and medical research scholars.
Pollution and tobacco are the main source of lethal disease of cancer stated Prof. Rath.
80% Cancer is curable against the general perception that cancer is a sure death trap stated Prof. Rath. Early detection of cancer enables the medical fraternity to snatch and save the patients from the clutches of cancer disease. Good living and healthy living habits can prevent cancer among human beings. Prostate cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer and testy cancer is 100% curable stated Prof. G.K. Rath in his presentation.
Delhi Study Group President Vijay Jolly in his welcome address specially stated that people of Sikh religion do not have oral cancer since they do not chew paan, gutka or tobacco in their daily lives. We all need to emulate Sikh discipline and way of leading life to avoid cancer stated Jolly. The program was compared by Bhupendra Kansil.
UN warns 300 million people suffer from depression
By Deepak Arora
UNITED NATIONS, March 31: More than 300 million people are now living with depression, which is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide, according to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) released ahead of World Health Day.
“These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency that it deserves,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a news release.
With the number of people with depression increasing more than 18 per cent from 2005 to 2015, WHO is carrying out a year-long campaign, Depression: let’s talk, with the aim of encouraging more people with depression to get help. This is also the theme of the 2017 edition of World Health Day, marked on 7 April.
Lack of support for people with mental disorders, coupled with a fear of stigma, prevent many from accessing the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives. Depression is an important risk factor for suicide, which claims hundreds of thousands of lives each year.
One of the first steps is to address issues around prejudice and discrimination. “The continuing stigma associated with mental illness was the reason why we decided to name our campaign Depression: let’s talk,” said Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO. “For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.”
Increased investment is also needed. In many countries, there is no, or very little, support available for people with mental health disorders. Even in high-income countries, nearly 50 per cent of people with depression do not get treatment. On average, just three per cent of government health budgets is invested in mental health, varying from less than one per cent in low-income countries to five per cent in high-income countries.
Every $1 invested in scaling up treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work.
Failure to act is costly. According to a WHO-led study, which calculated treatment costs and health outcomes in 36 low-, middle- and high-income countries for the 15 years from 2016-2030, low levels of recognition and access to care for depression and another common mental disorder, anxiety, result in a global economic loss of $1 trillion every year.
Households lose out financially when people cannot work. Employers suffer when employees become less productive and are unable to work. Governments have to pay higher health and welfare expenditures.
Care centres for cancer-hit children opens
MUMBAI, March 30: Three dilapidated buildings of Mumbai Port Trust on a 1.2 acre plot, transformed into a cheerful haven within a year for children undergoing cancer treatment and were inaugurated by Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.
"This is the happiest moment for me to inaugurate the child care centres. Within a year, these three neglected buildings and the property are converted into a safe, clean and cheerful haven for children who are under treatment for diseases like cancer," Gadkari remarked.
The project, Child Care Centre of Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital, was thrown open as a CSR project of MbPT, which was implemented by NGO St. Jude India ChildCare Centres, at Cotton Green in south Mumbai. In 2015, MbPT had signed an agreement with TMCH and provided its three disused buildings for housing the children, who were forced to find alternate accommodation that were not suitable for economical and security reasons.
They invited St. Jude ChildCare Centres, an NGO which operates similar homes for such children since 2006, to implement the CSR project. The now-transformed three buildings house 14 centres to accommodate 165 families, besides a residential floor for doctors.
"This will be a boon to families that travel from the remotest corners of India for cancer treatment for their children, but face major problems of safe and economical accommodation in Mumbai. As a result the children, aged mostly between six months to 15 years, succumb to infections or parents abandon their treatment," said St. Jude India's CEO Usha Banerji. The NGO provides its accommodation to such families and their cancer-afflicted kids free of cost, along with local transportation, water, nutrition, educational, recreation and psycho-social support.
Veteran Bollywood actor Nana Patekar, who was present and supported the initiative, went around with Gadkari to tour the new facilities and interacted with the child-patients who welcomed them with a song specially composed for the occasion.
Banerji said that the project became a reality with support from philanthropists, trusts and corporates and this would help St. Jude to cater to around 40 per cent of the accommodation needs of children currently undergoing cancer treatment in Mumbai.
"These children hail from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Assam and their parents are farmers, labourers, shopkeepers, etc. earning barely Rs 600 to Rs 3,000 per month," she said.
With this St. Jude India now runs 33 centres with 414 family units in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Jaipur. It aims to create around 1,000 family units across India to ensure that no cancer-afflicted child suffers due to lack of support, Banerji added.
India's National Health Policy is futuristic: Modi
NEW DELHI, March 17: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described National Health Policy as a "futuristic" document which places the interests of the citizens foremost.
"National Health Policy marks a historic moment in our endeavour to create a healthy India where everyone has access to quality healthcare," he tweeted.
"#NationalHealthPolicy2017 is comprehensive & futuristic, placing the interests of the citizens first & foremost," he added.
The policy, which was cleared by the Cabinet yesterday, was unveiled today in Parliament by Health Minister J P Nadda.
It sets ambitious targets like raising of public expenditure on health care to 2.5 per cent of GDP from the current level of about 1.5 per cent.
It also entails introducing yoga much more widely in schools and work places. The policy also envisions increasing life expectancy to 70 years from 67.5 years and proposes free diagnostics and drugs at all public hospitals.
The National Health policy will provide free medicines and "assured" health services to all and aims to reduce out of pocket health expenditure, Nadda said.
He said the newly unveiled policy unlike the earlier one stresses on "preventive and promotive" healthcare and also has a "target-oriented" commitment for elimination of diseases for which an implementation framework has also been envisaged.
The policy envisages the creation of National Health Care Standards Organisation which will formulate guidelines and protocols for healthcare while there is a provision of establishing a separate empowered tribunal for speedy resolution of disputes and complaints, the minister said.
"In order to provide access and financial protection at secondary and tertiary care levels, NHP 2017 proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency care services in all public hospitals," he said.
"Every one in the country will be given assured health services. Every section of the society belonging to any financial status, whosoever comes to our public health facility, will get assured services. This policy is patient centric and the patient has been empowered," Nadda told reporters.
The Health Minister said that under the policy, family health card will be made which will be connected to Public Health care facility so that a patients history can be digitally accessed.
"There will be a periodic measurement of all the health institutions, both public and private which has been envisaged in the policy. What is their (institutions) grading, facilities provided and their quality levels will be checked," Nadda said.
As a crucial component, the policy proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a time-bound manner, Nadda said while asserting that the health budget has increased in the last two years, nearly 27 per cent this time. The real problem is that we are not able to spend the entire amount, he said.
"Resources are never a problem. Its governments wish that health be given priority. Initially, budget estimates were always a larger number and later slashed leading to the revised estimates being less.
"It is for last two years, the revised estimates have increased and expenditure too has been more than 95 per cent. There is no dearth of money. Problem was of intention. Money was not a problem," he said, adding that the the target of 2.5 per cent will be reached by 2025 in a phased manner.
He said that the earlier policy focused on Communicable Diseases but over the last 15 years the focus has shifted to Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) which cause 60 per cent deaths presently and leads to increase in out of pocket expenditure of people on health which is why the new policy was required.
He said that while the earlier policy was a "sick" care policy, this policy talks about preventive and promotive health care and stress has been given an early screening at primary and secondary health centres which includes NCDs and chronic illness, adding that primary health care has to be comprehensive and universal.
"In Primary and Secondary Health Centres, our effort will be to provide facilities ourselves but at places where we cannot provide it, we will engage the private sector. This is one of the processes through which we want to take forward the idea of decreasing out of pocket expenditure.
UN rights experts urge action to curb 'invisible threat' of toxic air
By Deepak Arora
GENEVA, Feb 24: United Nations human rights experts are calling for strong, urgent action by States to ensure that people around the world can enjoy the human right to live in environments free from contamination.
“Air pollution is a major threat to human rights worldwide and toxic air pollutants are associated with an increased risk of disease from stroke, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases, including asthma,” the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, said in a news release issued on Friday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Three million deaths each year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO). There is also growing research evidence indicating that air pollution has become the leading environmental cause of death in the world.
Joining Mr. Tuncak in the appeal are Dainius Puras, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and John H. Knox, the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
“Children and people in vulnerable situations, including women of reproductive age, the elderly, those in poor health and those living in less wealthy communities remain the most vulnerable,” the experts warned.
According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), 300 million children – almost one in seven of the world's total, live in areas with the most toxic levels of outdoor air pollution, a situation paediatricians describe as a 'silent pandemic.'
“A threat like this can no longer be ignored,” they said. “States have a duty to prevent and control exposure to toxic air pollution and to protect against its adverse effects on human rights.”
The experts said that impunity for those responsible for air pollution is rampant today, with recent reports of environmental ministers even denying its effects, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
They stressed the need for cross-border cooperation to promote the adoption of preventive and control measures in the energy, industrial and transportation sectors, as well as the need for investment in infrastructures and long-term incentives.
“Improving the regulation of toxic emissions from industrial sources and vehicles, strengthening waste management and recycling practices, and promoting renewable energies are crucial steps to effectively address air quality issues and public health,” the experts concluded.
Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
WHO reports depression now ‘leading cause of disability worldwide’
By Deepak Arora
GENEVA, Feb 23: Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, the United Nations health agency today reported, estimating that it affects more than 300 million people worldwide – the majority of them women, young people and the elderly.
An estimated 4.4 per cent of the global population suffers from depression, according to a report released today by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), which shows an 18 per cent increase in the number of people living with depression between 2005 and 2015.
“Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life,” the WHO said.
According to the report, which was released today ahead of April’s World Health Day, prevalence rates seem to peak in adults at around 60 years of age, but are also seen in teenagers.
When long-lasting and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition leading, at its worst, to suicide. According to the report, some 800,000 people kill themselves every year, a significant number of them young adults between the ages of 15 and 29.
“Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological and biological factors,” WHO said, adding that depression can lead to more stress and dysfunction and worsen the affected person’s life situation.
To reduce depression, the UN agency recommends effective school-based programmes and exercise regimes.
Different psychological and psychosocial treatments were also noted in the report, which notes that health-care providers may offer behavioural activation, cognitive behavioural therapy [CBT], and interpersonal psychotherapy [IPT], or antidepressant medication (such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs] and tricyclic antidepressants [TCAs]).
Among the findings, however, the authors caution against using antidepressants to treat children or to quickly offer them to adolescents.
Some psychological treatment formats for consideration include individual and/or group face-to-face psychological treatments delivered by professionals and supervised lay therapists.
Green tea may help patients with bone-marrow disorders: study
WASHINGTON, Feb 7: A compound found in green tea may have lifesaving potential for patients with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis, who face often-fatal medical complications associated with bone-marrow disorders, a new study claims.
According to researchers at Washington University in the US and colleagues, the compound epigallocatechine-3-gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol found in green tea leaves, may be of particular benefit to patients struggling with multiple myeloma and amyloidosis.
These patients are susceptible to a frequently fatal condition called light chain amyloidosis, in which parts of the body's own antibodies become misshapen and can accumulate in various organs, including the heart and kidneys.
"The idea here is twofold: We wanted to better understand how light chain amyloidosis works, and how the green tea compound affects this specific protein," said Jan Bieschke, assistant professor at Washington University.
The team first isolated individual light chains from nine patients with bone marrow disorders that caused multiple myeloma or amyloidosis, then ran lab experiments to determine how the green tea compound affected the light chain protein.
Bieschke previously examined EGCG's effect in both Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and found it prevented dangerous buildups of protein present in both diseases.
In the new study the team found that in bone marrow patients, the EGCG transformed light chain amyloid, preventing the misshapen form from replicating and accumulating dangerously.
"In the presence of green tea, the chains have a different internal structure," Bieschke said.
"The ECGC pulled the light chain into a different type of aggregate that was not toxic and did not form fibril structures," as happens to organs affected by amyloidosis, he said.
"My group is looking at the mechanism of the protein in a test tube; we are studying how it works on a foundational level. At the same time, clinical trials at the Amyloidosis Center in Heidelberg, with Alzheimer's in Berlin and with Parkinson's in China examine the process in people. We all want this compound to work in a patient," said Bieschke.
The research was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Eating nuts may reduce the risk of colon cancer: Study
LONDON, Feb 7: One should include lots of nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios in their daily diet as they not only promote health benefits but also helps in lowering the risk of the deadly disease colon cancer.
Researchers have found that eating nuts helps in slowing down the growth of cancer cells and also reduces the risk of colon cancer.
The study led by researchers from University of Jena in Germany, showed that nuts have a positive effect on health because they are involved in activating the body's own defences for detoxifying reactive oxygen species.
These reactive oxygen species are created by ultraviolet radiation, various chemicals or distinct food metabolites and can cause DNA damage, leading to the development of cancer.
Wiebke Schlormann from the University of Jena said, that nuts and the substances they contain, stimulate a series of protective mechanisms in the human body to render these reactive oxygen species as harmless.
Schlormann added, "For a long time now we have known that nuts are full of substances that are good for the heart and the cardiovascular system, or that protect against becoming overweight or developing diabetes".
Some studies have indicated a protective effect against colon cancer, he maintained, in the paper appearing in the journal Molecular Carcinogenesis.
For the study, the team investigated the effect of five different types of nuts: macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts, as well as almonds and pistachios.
The nuts were artificially "digested" in test tubes and the effects of the resulting digestion products on cell lines were then analysed.
The researchers established that the activity of the protective enzymes catalase and superoxide dismutase increases in the cells that are treated.
In addition, the digestion products induce what is called programmed cell death in the cancer cells thus treated, the researchers noted.