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.