Monday, 30 October 2006

Satvik Food: Ancient Indian Diet Keeps Heart Problems Away


October 30, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 30: Intake of Vedic diet comprising fresh uncooked vegetables and raw sprouts will stabilise the heart beat and prevent arrhythmias, which often lead to death.
Arrhythmia is a health problem affecting the electrical system of the cardiac muscle and causes the heart to beat slowly or pump blood less effectively. A research study on various diets mentioned in the ancient Indian texts revealed that those who take a diet comprising vegetables, grains, sprouts, minimum quantity of oil and raw foods showed a rhythmic heart beat.
The study, conducted by Dr P Ravi Shankar and others at the Russian Medical Academy, showed that cells of the same tissue would exist with different resting potentials depending on the dietary intake as prescribed in the Indian system of medicine.
As many as 75 male Wistar rats were used in the study. They were divided into five groups each comprising 15 rats. Three groups of rats were fed with different types of diets referred to in the ancient Indian Scriptures. The other two groups were taken as control groups. The researchers used the action potentials in the heart muscle as a reference parameter. The action potentials showed an average resting potential of about - 84.5 milli volts. At the end of the study, the rats were killed and action potentials were measured from their intact hearts.
The values of action potentials in the rats fed with a diet made up of raw vegetables and grains were very close to the resting potential. The action potentials of those fed with spicy foods had varied between 86.5 milli volts and 93.5 milli volts. The third group which received cooked foods with lot of oil and sweets had action potentials between 105.28 milli volts and 112.28 milli volts.
"The findings prove that the more the resting potential, the lesser the external
stimulus needed to excite and generate an action potential which gives a greater understanding of arrhythmias in cardiac muscles and various nervous and other disorders," the study pointed out

Psycho-social counselling to form part of disaster management

October 30, 2006
Syed Akbar
The National Disaster Management Authority has now made a provision for psycho-social counselling of victims of natural calamities. The NDMA, which has been entrusted with the task of framing India's first-ever National Disaster Management Policy, feels that psycho-social counselling of victims will reduce their mental trauma and bring them back to normal life at a faster pace.
The National Disaster Management Policy, which is likely to be in place by New Year, lays emphasis on mental relief as much as on physical succour. The NDMA is all set to submit its draft policy to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a couple of week for Cabinet approval and necessary legislation.
Addressing trauma or psychological injury in natural or man-made calamities has always been a Herculean task. Governments and social workers worldwide encounter the delicate situation of supplying relief to victims vis-à-vis consoling them to reduce the untold mental trauma or shock they had undergone.
But the case had been quite different in India all these years. Central and State governments as also humanitarian aid groups simply concentrated on providing relief and rehabilitation. They did not focus on psychological counselling to reduce mental and physical trauma. Consequently, the victims continued to suffer mentally for many years despite being rehabilitated physically. The tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean two years ago had opened the eyes of policy makers and planners in India forcing them to come out with a disaster management policy with a thrust on psycho-social counselling.
"Management of trauma, both mental and physical, is an important issue in case of natural calamities. We can reduce the physical trauma but managing the mental trauma is not an easy task. We are going in for a comprehensive approach with regard to psycho-social support and trauma counselling. One of the suggestions we have received is to involve the victims in relief works so that it could lessen their mental shock," National Disaster Management Authority member Lt. Gen (rtd) Dr JR Bhardwaj said.
Dr Bhardwaj, who was in Hyderabad recently along with NDMA vice-chairman Gen NC Vij and other members for a feedback from intellectuals and scientists on the draft National Disaster Management Policy, admitted that India was not well equipped to tackle trauma cases in major disasters or calamities. The NDM policy will lay down certain guidelines on this issue.
Unfortunately in India trauma care is yet to receive its due importance as an emergency medical service. Even in big cities trauma care does not form part of the regular medical service.
Internationally renowned trauma care expert David Romig of the Emergency Medical Care Service, San Francisco, USA, feels that lack of basic trauma care in India was one of the main reasons for the escalation in the number of deaths, be it in accidents or natural calamities. "Doctors alone cannot do it. There should be proper awareness among people too," Romig, who was in the country recently, pointed out.
This is precisely the reason why the NDMA has plans to involve the local community in relief and rehabilitation programmes. It also aims at creating awareness, providing the infrastructure and ensuring access to the infrastructure in emergency situations.
The major task the NDMA is going to put on the shoulders of the Central and the State governments is upgradation of the existing medical services including state-of-the-art ambulance facilities. The country need to train paramedical staff to deal with natural calamities, which warrant mandatory trauma care during what health experts call the "golden hour" (the crucial period immediately after the tragedy).
"Victims of natural disasters or major man-made accidents require professional psychological care to reduce the emotional injuries or mental trauma. After every calamity, people live in a state of shock and their emotional recovery could take years. We cannot fill up the loss, but we can certain reduce their suffering through psycho-social counselling," Fr P Balaswamy, director of Social Service Centre, Vijayawada, observed.
The Social Service Centre and the Indian Red Cross Society experimented with what they called "community-based disaster management programme" in areas affected by Tsunami in Krishna district. They adopted a two-pronged strategy - built houses for the victims and took up community interaction, a simple psychological technique but with greater soothing effect. This concept is novel to India and NDMA has collected tips from these two organisations for adoption on a larger level in the country.
"In natural calamities many victims suffer from psychosomatic symptoms of trauma including listlessness, headaches, nightmares, chest pain and anxiety. If we do not attend to them, some of them may turn to destructive behaviours, like alcoholism, domestic violence or crime. There will always be a sufficient number of cases of mentally debility life. Feelings such as empathy and compassion can make a difference for hopeless and confused people," says senior psychiatrist Dr Indla Ramasubba Reddy.
Health and community workers, who participated in relief works in cyclones and floods, suggest that communities must to taught how to get those affected to speak on the calamity. Special care should be taken of children and they must be encouraged to act out their feelings and fears through paintings, sports, competitions and theatre activities. "Otherwise, we could be looking at a lost generation," Dr Ramasubba Reddy warns.
According to Dr Bhardwaj, the most common psychological reaction among disaster survivors are symptoms of acute stress and even psychological trauma and post traumatic stress disorder. Crisis intervention is also needed.
"Soon after natural calamities, we should not only focus on individual needs but also concentrate on community-based interventions to enhance the capacity of the community to provide appropriate support to people," suggests Fr Balaswamy.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Hepatitis C virus -- the new time bomb


By Syed Akbar
Published in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle on October 26, 2006
Hyderabad, Oct 25: As scientists and health experts rededicated themselves on World Hepatitis Day on October 1 fighting the disease, latest health data reveals that a highly asymptomatic liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is fast spreading in India.
A World Health Organisation report says that HCV, often described as a "viral time bomb", has recouped vigorously to strike at rates up to two times more than that of the human immuno-deficiency virus or HIV.
WHO lists India along with Egypt, Italy and Japan where HCV is rampant. The number of HCV patients in India equals if not exceeds the total number of HCV patients in Europe and the USA.
WHO reports that as against 5.1 million Indians suffering from HIV/AIDS, around 12 million carry HCV. About 30 per cent of HIV patients simultaneously suffer from HCV.
The Indian Journal of Gastroenterology reports that about three per cent of people in Andhra Pradesh carry the HCV. The number could be higher as the data was collected based on medical screening at laboratories.
The undetected HCV population might be large because the virus does not show symptoms straightaway.
There is no vaccine to prevent HCV unlike the other Hepatitis varieties; vaccination for other types of Hepatitis may slow or prevent HCV infection. The best way to avoid HCV infection is to follow prevention and precaution steps.
"Did you receive a blood transfusion, haemodialysis, angiogram, tatooing, prolong injections or syringes? If yes, get tested for HCV. The cure rate is high if it is detected early," says senior gastroenterologist Dr Dharmesh Kapoor.
The HCV does not spread by air. Transmission is through skin or mucous membrane and one has to be careful while sharing tooth brushes, nail cutters, razors, syringes and tattoo needles.
Those who have multiple sex partners are at high risk of contacting the disease.
The efficacy of latex condoms in preventing infection with HCV is unknown. Doctors feel that proper use of condoms may reduce the transmission risk, though it will not totally eliminate it.
According to Dr Dinesh Kini, consultant gastroenterologist of Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, "HCV has a tendency to develop into long term liver disease and can cause liver cirrhosis and even cancer of the liver. The infection has an initial phase which is often asymptomatic and lasts up to six months".
Like HIV, the HCV virus remains in the infected patients for years together. Unlike HIV, it does not invade the immune system but replicates using the liver's resource cells.
The patient does not know that he is carrying the virus; he experiences fatigue and discomfort in the upper abdominal area. HCV can remain undetected for as long as 10 years.
In up to 85 per cent cases, the virus fights the body immune system. Patients develop long term or chronic infection and transmit the disease.
About half the HCV cases do not show symptoms even though the virus is fairly active.
While 20 per cent of patients recover fully the remaining develop some form of chronicity.
Five per cent of chronic patients develop liver cell cancer and an equal number suffer from decompensated cirrhosis.
"If untreated the liver will be damaged. The only treatment then remains is to replace the damaged liver by a new one. Early detection and prompt treatment can save lives," observes Dr Samir R Shah, specialist in hepatobiliary diseases, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre and Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai.
"PEGylated interferon can effect a cure in a good number of patients," says gastroenterologist Dr Kapoor. PEGylation is the coupling a polyethylene glycol structure to a larger molecule, for example, a therapeutic protein. Interferons are a class of natural proteins produced by the cells of the immune systems in response to challenges by viruses, bacteria, parasites and tumour cells.
The PEGylation of the interferon slows down the body's ability to break down the interferon molecule.
The interferon gets absorbed more slowly and constant amounts of interferon are present in the body which constantly attacks the virus.
Pegylated interferon alfa-2a (40KD) suppresses the virus in more than 50 per cent of patients. Ribavirin is also found effective against this disease.
Eleven Hepatitis C virus genotypes with several distinct subtypes have been identified throughout the world.
The WHO report notes that "Although different strains have not been shown to differ dramatically in their virulence or pathogenicity, different genotypes vary in their responsiveness to interferon/ribavirin combination therapy."
"Such heterogeneity hinders the development of vaccines, since vaccine antigens from multiple serotypes will probably be necessary for global protection," the report states.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Targeted therapy to treat cancer


October 25, 2006
By Syed Akbar
As October, the national breast cancer awareness month, draws to a close, oncologists and health experts suggest “targeted therapy” to treat the fast increasing menace. Of late, the incidence of breast cancer in India has been going up on par with developed countries mainly because of lifestyle changes including early menarche, lack of exercises and fatty diet.
Breast cancer has now become the commonest cancer in women in urban areas in India. It has emerged as the leading cause of death in women aged 35–55 years and the second leading cause of death in women of all ages. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organisation unit, about a lakh new breast cancer cases are reported every year in India.
Oncologists, doctors who deal with cancers, observe that breast cancer has certain patterns in its incidence. That it depends on the lifestyle of people. The incidence is higher in urban areas than in rural areas with National Capital Delhi leading the Indian chart. Delhi is followed by Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.
An increasing number of cancer specialists are now prescribing targeted therapy or therapies to control breast cancer. Targeted therapy is nothing but a therapy with a specific molecular target. This method of treating cancer is efficient in more than one ways.
“In targeted therapy the biological processes that drive the cancer are understood and treatment is targeted at the biological process. In this process only cancer cells are targeted and the normal cells are spared,” says senior medical oncologist Dr SVSN Prasad. Targeted therapy is better than other traditional therapies. In chemotherapy or radiotherapy the normal tissue is also affected. Moreover, side-effects are minimal in the case of targeted therapy or therapies.
Targeted therapy is now increasingly being used for treatment of breast cancer, particularly in fighting HER2 or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. HER2 is a gene that helps control how cells grow, divide and repair themselves. It directs the production of special proteins called HER2 receptors. Each healthy breast cell contains two copies of the HER2 gene, which helps normal cells grow. Sometimes a cell may have too many copies of the HER2 gene, which may lead to too much HER2 protein. This may play an important role in turning a normal cell into a cancer cell. The targeted therapy helps in prevention of recurrence and spread of the disease. Dr Prasad suggests that for more effective results targeted therapy can be combined with chemotherapy.
Dr Vijay Anand Reddy, radiation oncologist at Apollo Cancer Hospital, relates alarming increase in breast cancer to fast changing lifestyle of people, particularly in urban areas. Lifestyle changes like early menarche, lack of exercises and fatty diet are also the contributory factors.
“Today, breast cancer is the commonest cancer in women in urban population. India is fast catching up developed countries in terms of number breast cancer patients. Molecular therapies are referred as anti-bodies against HER2 antigens have really made a significant impact on the management of breast cancer patients,” he points out. One out of five women in advanced stage of breast cancer is HER2 positive.
Around nine per cent of women develop breast cancer during their lifetime, making it the second most common cancer in the world. In India, breast cancer accounts for 20 per cent of the total cancer-related diseases. According to WHO health statistics, breast cancer occurs at a younger age in India as compared to developed countries. HER2 type of breast cancer has greater risk of spread with faster growth of tumor. There are greater chances of the tumor coming back.
“Targeted therapies have emerged as the latest treatment option for people suffering from cancers. The therapy terminates the cancerous cells without affecting the quality of life of the patient. Indian oncologists prefer Herceptin, a unique biologic targeted therapy, for women with HER2-positive breast cancer,” says Dr Vijay Anand.
Since Herceptin targets mostly tumor cells that over-express the HER2 protein, it does not affect normal healthy cells. Patients on this therapy alone may be less likely to experience the side effects typical of other types of treatments, such as hair loss, fatigue, or a decline in certain blood counts.
Doctors observe that the best protection against cancer is awareness. Timely detection of cancer helps towards early treatment and prevents further progression of the disease.
The World Cancer Report states that action on smoking, diet and infections can prevent one third of cancers while another one third can be cured.
The World Health Organisation is of the view that cancer rates could further increase by 50 per cent to 15 million new cases in the next 14 years.
India has one of the high cancer mortality rates. There has been an increase in the incidence of breast cancer cases in Indian cities, points out Dr J Bandana, consultant gynaecologist.
“Lifestyle changes, smoking, usage of oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, postponement of childbirth, obesity etc increase the risk of breast cancer,” she says. Dr Bandana suggests regular self breast examination for women and those over 40 should also undergo mammography once a year to nip breast cancer at an early stage.
Women with a history of first-degree relatives (mother, sister) suffering from breast cancer should be more cautious and regularly self examine their breasts, undergo mammography once a year, she observes.

Ramadan crescent: State to have moon panel


October 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 24: With Muslim religious scholars divided once again on the
‘sighting’ of the Id moon, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an umbrella body of Imams of
mosques, has decided to set up a State-level moon-sighting panel to ensure that the
major Muslim festival is celebrated uniformly all over the country.
While Muslims in the entire country on Tuesday celebrated the Id-ul-Fitr (the
festival of alms-giving which marks the end of the month-long fasting during
Ramazan), those in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh will celebrate it on Wednesday.
Even within Andhra Pradesh, Muslims in Nalgonda, Guntur and other districts
celebrated the Id on Tuesday.
‘The problem is mainly because of lack of coordination among our moon-sighting
panels in different States. In Andhra Pradesh there is only one moon-sighting or
Ruhiyat Hilal committee and its operations are limited to twin cities of Hyderabad
and Secunderabad. We do not have a panel at the State level to coordinate with
Muslims scholars in various districts of Andhra Pradesh on one hand and with Hilal
committees of other States on the other,” Jamiat Ulema State president Hafiz Peer
Shabbir Ahmad told this correspondent.
The Hyderabad Hilal committee on Monday evening wound up its sitting quite early
without waiting for reports from other States. It simply announced that the Id would
be celebrated on Wednesday but as reports of moon sighting poured in from other
States including national Capital Delhi, the Hyderabad panel met once again late in
the night. The meeting which lasted till 12.20 am on Tuesday decided against
following observations of Hilal committees of other States. “Several Muslim families
all over the State had to remain awake till late in the night to know the fate of
the new moon. This is something not good. We have modern technology and gadgets. The
Hyderabad panel should have utilized them to take the decision fast without having
to wait for that long. By 9.00 pm the Shahi Imams of Delhi and Fatehpuri mosques
have announced their decisions,” senior religious scholar Hafiz Syed Shujath Hussain
said.
Muslim scholars blame the Hyderabad Hilal committee for the “paux pas”. The city
panel is controlled by a group of Muslim scholars following a particular school of
Islamic jurisprudence. There is no representation to Muslim scholars of other sects
or religious schools of thought. The decision on Id for Wednesday was taken
reportedly on the insistence of 135-year-old Islamic institution Jamia Nizamia’s
chief Mufti Khaleel Ahmad. Sources said the decision on Id for Wednesday was taken
to avoid confusion in the community at the eleventh hour.
“Our new State-level Hilal committee will have representation to all sects including
Shias. We will have the committee with Muslim scholars of different schools of
Islamic jurisprudence. Henceforth, the new panel will ensure that the Id is
celebrated uniformly throughout the country or at least in the State,” Jamiat State
secretary Sabir Ahmad pointed out.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

State-level Moon Panel To Clear Crescent Sighting Controversy


October 25, 2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 24: With Muslim religious scholars divided once again on the
‘sighting’ of the Id moon, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an umbrella body of Imams of
mosques, has decided to set up a State-level moon-sighting panel to ensure that the
major Muslim festival is celebrated uniformly all over the country.
While Muslims in the entire country on Tuesday celebrated the Id-ul-Fitr (the
festival of alms-giving which marks the end of the month-long fasting during
Ramazan), those in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh will celebrate it on Wednesday.
Even within Andhra Pradesh, Muslims in Nalgonda, Guntur and other districts
celebrated the Id on Tuesday.
‘The problem is mainly because of lack of coordination among our moon-sighting
panels in different States. In Andhra Pradesh there is only one moon-sighting or
Ruhiyat Hilal committee and its operations are limited to twin cities of Hyderabad
and Secunderabad. We do not have a panel at the State level to coordinate with
Muslims scholars in various districts of Andhra Pradesh on one hand and with Hilal
committees of other States on the other,” Jamiat Ulema State president Hafiz Peer
Shabbir Ahmad told this correspondent.
The Hyderabad Hilal committee on Monday evening wound up its sitting quite early
without waiting for reports from other States. It simply announced that the Id would
be celebrated on Wednesday but as reports of moon sighting poured in from other
States including national Capital Delhi, the Hyderabad panel met once again late in
the night. The meeting which lasted till 12.20 am on Tuesday decided against
following observations of Hilal committees of other States. “Several Muslim families
all over the State had to remain awake till late in the night to know the fate of
the new moon. This is something not good. We have modern technology and gadgets. The
Hyderabad panel should have utilized them to take the decision fast without having
to wait for that long. By 9.00 pm the Shahi Imams of Delhi and Fatehpuri mosques
have announced their decisions,” senior religious scholar Hafiz Syed Shujath Hussain
said.
Muslim scholars blame the Hyderabad Hilal committee for the “paux pas”. The city
panel is controlled by a group of Muslim scholars following a particular school of
Islamic jurisprudence. There is no representation to Muslim scholars of other sects
or religious schools of thought. The decision on Id for Wednesday was taken
reportedly on the insistence of 135-year-old Islamic institution Jamia Nizamia’s
chief Mufti Khaleel Ahmad. Sources said the decision on Id for Wednesday was taken
to avoid confusion in the community at the eleventh hour.
“Our new State-level Hilal committee will have representation to all sects including
Shias. We will have the committee with Muslim scholars of different schools of
Islamic jurisprudence. Henceforth, the new panel will ensure that the Id is
celebrated uniformly throughout the country or at least in the State,” Jamiat State
secretary Sabir Ahmad pointed out.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Drugs under watch list

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 16: The Central government has put 11 drugs under watch for their reported side-effects as part of its pharmacovigilance programme.
According to Rajesh Bhushan, director, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the government will take a decision on banning or otherwise of these drugs after gathering feedback from stake-holders. He said these drugs include pain-killers, cardio-muscular and anti-pyretic.
"We have already banned Rofecoxib and Valdecoxib after it was established that the are not good for the health of our people," he said.
Rajesh Bhushan told reporters at the National Institute of Nutrition here that the MHFW had sought the cooperation of healthcare professionals
in collecting data of adverse events related to drugs marketed in India. The submitted data will be collated and evaluated by the National Pharmacovigilance Centre operating at the department of pharmacology,
All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
Referring to the drug sector scenario in the country, Rajesh Bhushan said laboratories required urgent upgradation for increasing capacity and competency. He regretted that all imported drug batches were not tested. A large number of vacancies in Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and Central and State laboratories were coming in the way of effective implementation.
He agreed that there were constraints in existing testing capabilities and capacities especially for contaminants and microbiological parameters.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Saros series-146: Lunar eclipse may cast evil spell

2006
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 16: The first-ever partial lunar eclipse in the Saros series-146 will occur on Monday and the Sankaracharya of Sri Sarada Peetham predicts that it will cast an evil shadow on the earth causing natural disasters both within and outside the country.
"The lunar eclipse is occurring this time in the zodiacal sign of Aries. The sun will be in Libra and the Moon in Aries. This is Meena (Pisces) and Mesha (Aries) Chandra grahan (lunar eclipse). Kuja is held up in the Mesha Rasi and Sani (in fourth position) casts its impact on Kuja. Guru (Jupiter) has lost its divine power. It will have bad impact on human beings living far and wide," says Sri Sarada Peetham chief Sri Jagadguru Sankaracharya Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi. The eclipse begins at 5.04 pm and ends at 6.03 pm. and will be visible in India, Australia, Pacific and North America.
The Swamiji, who returned to the city on Sunday after 11 days of meditation and prayers in Mumbai during Dasara, told this correspondent that the evil impact would haunt people till December 11. He predicts that the lunar eclipse will cause destruction in north India and countries like Mexico, Afghanistan, England, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Poland, Syria, Pakistan and the USA. The calamity may over shadow people in the form of major natural disasters including big fire accidents.
The Sankaracharya had earlier predicted that the solar eclipse (October 2)
would kick off disasters like floods and earthquakes in various parts of the Indian sub-continent. "The only way to escape these disasters is to pray to the Almighty and invoke His Mercy and Blessings," he said.
Dr CVV Subramanyam, eminent astrologer and dean of Social and Other Studies, Telugu University, supports the forecast of the Swamiji saying that the lunar eclipse like the earlier solar eclipse would have its spell on "human and physical objects". This is the first time in five years that a solar and a lunar eclipse have occurred within a fortnight.
During this Aries-Lunar eclipse, Mars is at a critical degree, making this a significant day to watch for major events. "Mars in retrograde motion in Taurus is certainly putting a new spin on how we view the world. Since mars has entered Taurus, we have already experienced 20 hurricanes this year - the highest since 1933. There was also pandemic outbreak of Avian Flu and earthquakes," he points out.
Stating how this lunar eclipse will have its impact on one's personal and public life, astrologer JUB Sastry says the eclipse will bring focus on the tension between the self and significant relationships involving patterns. Tempers could easily flare or one may be exploiting or feel exploited by others on an emotional level.
"The sun in libra in conjunct with Jupiter which normally produces a time of productive energy. However, the Libra scale could tip either way with the opposing moon", he clarifies.
However, the lunar eclipse has a positive side too. Since it is connected to Pluto in a wedge pattern, its influence can help one to bounce back even after the worst of situations, helping one to make use of events and transforming through them, astrologers feel.

Andhra Pradesh lags behind in "food scores", says NIN

2006
Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 16: Andhra Pradesh has put up a poor show on the "food scores" among the four Southern States but performed well when it came to "drug scores".
Food and drug scores have been arrived at by the city-based National Institute of Nutrition to gauge the level of awareness, practices and enabling assets among Indians on food and drugs respectively. On a scale of 100 points, Andhra Pradesh has scored 38 points on food safety and 13 points on drug awareness. The national average for food safety awareness is 36, which means that though Andhra Pradesh is backward among Southern States, it is two points higher than the national average.
Kerala stands first with 49.1 on food scores, followed by Tamil Nadu with 41.4 points and Karnataka with 38.9 points. The drug scores average for south India was 12.4 while that of Andhra Pradesh was 13.
Union Minister of State for Health Panabaka Lakshmi on Monday released the data a nation-wide household survey on food safety and quality control of drugs. The study was sponsored by the World Bank and conducted by the National Institute of Nutrition. The survey covered 82 districts spread over 28 States.
From the food safety scores, it is striking that all the States in the East zone performed poorly on food safety scores in all the aspects like awareness, knowledge and practice closely followed by West as compared to other three regions. Unlike in East, where all of the States are uniformly poor, in the case of West, Goa is far better than the other States. Even the progressive States of Maharashtra and Gujarat have not enhanced the food safety provisions, Kalpagam Polasa, head of the food and drug toxicology research centre, NIN.
NIN Director B Sesikeran said the results indicate that Indians most cook food twice a day (78 per cent) using solid fuels (about 76 per cent) in a common place (31 per cent) or specific veranda (28 per cent) and serve hot food (54.3 per cent).
As against the common belief that India is predominantly vegetarian, 64.1 per cent families consume non-vegetarian foods with the highest reported in Southern States (92.2 per cent) and the least in north (40.4 per cent). A majority of families stated that leftover non-vegetarian food is stored at room temperature (51.2 per cent).
Spoilage of food is usually determined by smell (48.7 per cent) and rarely by appearance (18.4 per cent) and taste (about 10 per cent) or all three (22.2 per cent).

Friday, 13 October 2006

Ultra violet radiation: Hyderabad fast turning into a radiation city

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 13: Hyderabad is fast turning into a "radiation city" 
with harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays hitting the city at "extreme" levels.
UV forecasts for Hyderabad show that the radiation falling down on the 
city from the sun for most part of the year is on the higher side, which 
is an indication that all is not well with the ozone layer above and the 
city's atmosphere.
Hyderabad is bracketed with concrete jungles like Mumbai, Kolkata, 
Bangalore and Chennai as these cities record "extreme" UV radiation 
for more than three days a week. However, Delhi appears to be slightly 
better as the UV radiation levels there are generally "high" to "very 
high" but rarely "extreme".
Ultraviolet rays falling on the earth are classified into various 
categories based on the intensity of the radiation and the harm they 
cause to human beings and animals. The World Meteorological 
Organisation, a WHO body, has standardised the UV radiation levels 
with its "UV Index" which is a simple measure of the UV radiation 
level at the earth's surface. Hyderabad's UV Index shows a measure of 
11, the highest point in the UV scale.
No wonder then that there has been a spurt in skin diseases in 
Hyderabad may be because of extreme levels of UV radiation. "Most of 
the cases relate to photo-ageing and skin cancer due to penetration of 
the rays into the skin. Even if one is in a car the rays can penetrate the 
glass and impact the skin. The most common skin allergy cases that 
come to us are related to  UV radiation called polymorphic light 
eruption," senior dermatologist Dr Anup Lahari pointed out.
The values of the UV Index range from zero to 11 and the higher the 
Index value, the greater the potential for damage to the human body 
and the less time it takes for harm to occur. On the higher side is the 
"extreme" and on the lower side is the "very low". In between UV 
Index is categorised as "low", "medium", "high" and "very high".
The WMO and the World Climate Research Programme as also the 
India Meteorological Department regularly issue UV forecasts for 
different cities around the world and in India respectively. The IMD 
monitors UV levels at its 45 radiation observatories spread across the 
country.
The UV Index up to October 18 is 11 i.e. "extreme" for Hyderabad, 
Chennai and Mumbai, while it is 8 (very high) for Delhi, 7 (high) for 
Chandigarh and 10 (very high) for Kolkata. The Index last week was 
also "extreme" for most part of the week for Hyderabad and other cities 
except Delhi.
The main reason given for the high intensity of UV radiation in 
Hyderabad is rapid urbanisation and high levels of pollution.
"As UV radiation can neither be seen nor felt, the UV Index is an 
important tool to raise awareness of the problem and alert people on a 
daily basis to take prompt, appropriate and protective action. That 
Hyderabad has high UV Index is an indication that the ozone layer is 
not properly filtering the sunlight. If the ozone does its job properly, 
the harmful radiation are filtered out. The high UV Index shows that 
the ozone layer has become thin," says Prof OSRU Bhanu Kumar, head 
of the department of environmental sciences, Andhra University.
Health experts and environmentalists warn that damage from the 
exposure to the UV rays is cumulative and over a period of time it will 
lead to serious diseases of the eye, including cataract and macular 
degeneration.
Consultant radiologist of Care Hospital Dr B Murali suggested that one 
should go in for massive tree plantation and keep off the sun to the 
extent possible to avoid UV radiation. "UV radiation exposures are 
largely preventable. The best protection is achieved by practising a 
combination of recommended safe behaviours. Limit exposures to sun 
rays when they are the strongest i.e. between 10 am and 4 pm. Seek 
shades such as trees or umbrella whenever possible. Use a broad-
spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor of at least 15. Sunglasses 
can provide 100 per cent protection," he said.
Children are at high risk as on an average they get three times more sun 
exposure and thus are subject to damaging cumulative effects of UV. It 
is estimated that 80 per cent of lifetime sun exposure occurs before 18 
years of age.
"With the UV rays being equally extreme even in a "garden city" like 
Bangalore, there has been an increase in eye related problems there. Dr 
NM Sudha, senior ophthalmologist from Bangalore, pointed out that 
ultra violet light is as a causative factor in several eye problems such as 
cataract, retinal degeneration and surface problems such as pterigyum. 

Friday, 6 October 2006

Andhra Pradesh plays a role model: Screening for children with heart ailments



By Syed Akbar
Andhra Pradesh is going to add yet another feather in its cap. This time for 
taking up the gigantic task of providing medicare and conducting heart 
surgeries free of cost to around 5000 children, mostly from the lower strata of 
society.
The second phase screening of heart diseases in children, under an innovative 
scheme launched by the State government in August 2004, is currently on in 
the State. Already 3,200 children have been identified for surgery in medical 
camps held in September. Another round of medical camps is scheduled for 
October 8 at 44 centres across the State. Once the screening process is 
completed, heart surgeries will be performed on these children in about 50 
corporate, private and government hospitals.
In the first phase screening held in 2004, over 5500 children were identified 
for surgeries and of them 4700 underwent heart operations. The remaining 
700 children could not make their way to the operation theatre for want of 
infrastructure. These children will now be included in the list of fresh 
beneficiaries in the second phase.
Andhra Pradesh is the first and so far the only State in the country where 
children under 12 years of age are provided free heart treatment in the state-
of-the-art corporate hospitals. They are also provided with free follow up 
treatment. Only the neighbouring Karnataka State has a health insurance 
scheme for children belonging to below the poverty families. Unlike the 
cardiac programme in Andhra Pradesh, the scheme in Karnataka provides for 
general health problems. A CM’s Children Relief Fund was exclusively set 
up for the purpose. 

How the Scheme Began:

It was August 7, 2004. The new Congress government was just settling 
down. Hundreds of children suffering from heart diseases gathered in 
Hyderabad to press for their demand for free medical treatment. The 
Mahajana Sangarshna Samithi had organised the demonstration by 
mobilising poor children and their parents from all most all the rural areas of 
the State.
Tragedy struck the demonstration. One of the children, T Sobhan (12), of 
Shanigaram of Karimnagar district, collapsed on the Lower Tank Bund road 
apparently unable to bear the stress of walking and standing for long under 
the hot sun. A couple of days later, two more children, Rajasekhar from 
Prakasam district and Konda Saidulu from Nalgonda district succumbed to 
heart ailments. Incidentally, these two children too had participated in the 
demonstration.
This moved the new Congress government and Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar 
Reddy announced a special package for children suffering from cardiac 
ailments which includes free heart surgery. Andhra Pradesh thus became the 
first State in the country to introduce free heart treatment for children below 
12 years of age.
In the first year the government conducted screening tests for 5500 children 
and of them about 2000 children underwent surgeries. Another 2700 children 
were operated upon in 2005. The government has initially allocated Rs 8 
crore for the project and announced that it would be a continuous 
programme. Keeping its assurance, the government has now called for the 
second phase of screening tests in all the 23 districts to identify new patients.
The government has also taken up an ambitious programme to strengthen 
facilities in government hospitals so that state-of-the-art medicare is provided 
to poor children. The government has also roped in children specialists to 
perform surgeries.
Now buoyed by the success of the cardiac programme, the government has 
decided to introduce a universal health insurance scheme to take care of the 
health needs of children suffering from various ailments. Children below 12 
years and belonging to below poverty line families will be covered under the 
proposed scheme. According to a rough estimate, two lakh children under 12 
years are suffering from heart problems in the State and about 20,000 
children add to this number every year.

How It Works:

Unlike in other States where free treatment is provided to the poor only in 
government hospitals, the Andhra Pradesh government has made a provision 
for treatment of poor children even in corporate and top class hospitals. The 
provides financial aid to corporate hospitals towards these surgeries and other 
follow up treatment if any.
These private hospitals charge 20 per cent less than the rates fixed by the 
State-controlled Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. The payment is  
made by the Director of Medical Education to the hospital concerned after 
getting scrutiny of bills by a committee constituted for the purpose. 
The State government has divided heart diseases into various categories for 
purpose of treatment. The category I covers PDA interruption 
pericardiectomy, closed mitral valvotomy and PA banding, while category II 
covers BT shunt coarctaion of aorta repair. Under category II, surgeries like 
ASD closure, VSD closure and AP window repair.
The other categories are: category IV: Intracardiac repair of TOF, 
intracardiac repair of TAPVC; Category V: Intracardiac repair of TGA, 
DORV, tricuspid atresia, trunkus arteriosus etc., and other surgeries needing 
special conduits like pulmonary atresia; Category VI: Valve repair, mitrial 
valve repair, tricuspid valve repair; Category VII:  Mitral valve replacements, 
aortic valve replacements, tricuspid valve replacements; Category VIII: 
double valve replacements (mitral valve replacement and aotric valve 
replacement); Category IX: Interventional procedures like percutaneous 
balloon valvuloplasties, balloon septostomy including cardiac catheterization 
and cine angiograms. 
Initially there was no provision for permanent pacemaker implantation (PPI) 
but now the government has included this category also. A new category - 
Category X - has been included to provide for permanent pacemaker 
implantation. Other cardiac problems not included in the above categories, 
whenever they come up would be examined and put in appropriate category 
on a case to case basis by the central cell at Gandhi Hospital in consultation 
with the Director of Medical Education.

Special Cardiac Cells

Moreover, special cardiac cells have been created in seven government 
teaching hospitals, which will treat, operate or refer patients to other 
hospitals. These cells are located at Osmania General Hospital, Hyderabad, 
King George Hospital, Visakhapatnam, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, 
Warangal, Gandhi Hospital, Secunderabad, Government General Hospital, 
Kurnool, Government General Hospital, Guntur and Government General 
Hospital, Kakinada. 
On being approached by a child cardiac patient, the cardiac cell in the 
Teaching Hospital will conduct necessary screening and render advice to the 
child patients and his/her parents/attendants. The cardiac cell will undertake 
treatment of the paediatric cardiac ailments at the same teaching hospital 
including surgeries. 
If the surgeries for which facilities are not available or the required expert 
cardiac surgeon personnel are not available in the teaching hospital, then the 
cardiac cell of the teaching hospital will first enquire with the other 
government teaching hospitals as to whether they can handle the required 
type of surgeries.
If any of the other teaching hospitals in the State have such spare capacity, 
the case will be referred to there. If not, it will be referred to the nearest 
private hospital that can perform such surgery. An identification card is 
issued to the patient for this purpose, by the government cardiac cell of the 
teaching hospital.
In case, the patient comes back to the hospital concerned at a later date, 
where surgery is performed, the hospital should have to take proper care of 
the patient. It should not insist reference from the cardiac cell.
Congress MP V Hanumantha Rao demands that the Central government bear 
the cost of operations. "Thousands of children are in a critical condition for 
lack of medical facilities. The State government does not have the resources 
to fund the critical heart operations of children who are waiting for months 
for heart operations. Many children are also dying while they wait for heart 
operations in Andhra Pradesh. The Central government should pay attention 
to this critical problem," he pointed out.

Andhra Pradesh government new initiative: Screening for children with heart ailments

2006
By Syed Akbar
Andhra Pradesh is going to add yet another feather in its cap. This time for taking up the gigantic task of providing medicare and conducting heart surgeries free of cost to around 5000 children, mostly from the lower strata of society.
The second phase screening of heart diseases in children, under an innovative scheme launched by the State government in August 2004, is currently on in the State. Already 3,200 children have been identified for surgery in medical camps held in September. Another round of medical camps is scheduled for October 8 at 44 centres across the State. Once the screening process is completed, heart surgeries will be performed on these children in about 50 corporate, private and government hospitals.
In the first phase screening held in 2004, over 5500 children were identified for surgeries and of them 4700 underwent heart operations. The remaining 700 children could not make their way to the operation theatre for want of infrastructure. These children will now be included in the list of fresh beneficiaries in the second phase.
Andhra Pradesh is the first and so far the only State in the country where children under 12 years of age are provided free heart treatment in the state-of-the-art corporate hospitals. They are also provided with free follow up treatment. Only the neighbouring Karnataka State has a health insurance scheme for children belonging to below the poverty families. Unlike the cardiac programme in Andhra Pradesh, the scheme in Karnataka provides for general health problems. A CM’s Children Relief Fund was exclusively set up for the purpose.

------------
How the Scheme Began:
------------

It was August 7, 2004. The new Congress government was just settling down. Hundreds of children suffering from heart diseases gathered in Hyderabad to press for their demand for free medical treatment. The Mahajana Sangarshna Samithi had organised the demonstration by mobilising poor children and their parents from all most all the rural areas of the State.
Tragedy struck the demonstration. One of the children, T Sobhan (12), of Shanigaram of Karimnagar district, collapsed on the Lower Tank Bund road apparently unable to bear the stress of walking and standing for long under the hot sun. A couple of days later, two more children, Rajasekhar from Prakasam district and Konda Saidulu from Nalgonda district succumbed to heart ailments. Incidentally, these two children too had participated in the demonstration.
This moved the new Congress government and Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy announced a special package for children suffering from cardiac ailments which includes free heart surgery. Andhra Pradesh thus became the first State in the country to introduce free heart treatment for children below 12 years of age.
In the first year the government conducted screening tests for 5500 children and of them about 2000 children underwent surgeries. Another 2700 children were operated upon in 2005. The government has initially allocated Rs 8 crore for the project and announced that it would be a continuous programme. Keeping its assurance, the government has now called for the second phase of screening tests in all the 23 districts to identify new patients.
The government has also taken up an ambitious programme to strengthen facilities in government hospitals so that state-of-the-art medicare is provided to poor children. The government has also roped in children specialists to perform surgeries.
Now buoyed by the success of the cardiac programme, the government has decided to introduce a universal health insurance scheme to take care of the health needs of children suffering from various ailments. Children below 12 years and belonging to below poverty line families will be covered under the proposed scheme. According to a rough estimate, two lakh children under 12 years are suffering from heart problems in the State and about 20,000 children add to this number every year.

--------
How It Works:
--------

Unlike in other States where free treatment is provided to the poor only in government hospitals, the Andhra Pradesh government has made a provision for treatment of poor children even in corporate and top class hospitals. The provides financial aid to corporate hospitals towards these surgeries and other follow up treatment if any.
These private hospitals charge 20 per cent less than the rates fixed by the State-controlled Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences. The payment is made by the Director of Medical Education to the hospital concerned after getting scrutiny of bills by a committee constituted for the purpose.
The State government has divided heart diseases into various categories for purpose of treatment. The category I covers PDA interruption pericardiectomy, closed mitral valvotomy and PA banding, while category II covers BT shunt coarctaion of aorta repair. Under category II, surgeries like ASD closure, VSD closure and AP window repair.
The other categories are: category IV: Intracardiac repair of TOF, intracardiac repair of TAPVC; Category V: Intracardiac repair of TGA, DORV, tricuspid atresia, trunkus arteriosus etc., and other surgeries needing special conduits like pulmonary atresia; Category VI: Valve repair, mitrial valve repair, tricuspid valve repair; Category VII: Mitral valve replacements,
aortic valve replacements, tricuspid valve replacements; Category VIII: double valve replacements (mitral valve replacement and aotric valve replacement); Category IX: Interventional procedures like percutaneous
balloon valvuloplasties, balloon septostomy including cardiac catheterization and cine angiograms.
Initially there was no provision for permanent pacemaker implantation (PPI) but now the government has included this category also. A new category - Category X - has been included to provide for permanent pacemaker implantation. Other cardiac problems not included in the above categories, whenever they come up would be examined and put in appropriate category on a case to case basis by the central cell at Gandhi Hospital in consultation with the Director of Medical Education.

--------
Special Cardiac Cells
--------


Moreover, special cardiac cells have been created in seven government teaching hospitals, which will treat, operate or refer patients to other hospitals. These cells are located at Osmania General Hospital, Hyderabad, King George Hospital, Visakhapatnam, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Warangal, Gandhi Hospital, Secunderabad, Government General Hospital, Kurnool, Government General Hospital, Guntur and Government General Hospital, Kakinada.
On being approached by a child cardiac patient, the cardiac cell in the Teaching Hospital will conduct necessary screening and render advice to the child patients and his/her parents/attendants. The cardiac cell will undertake treatment of the paediatric cardiac ailments at the same teaching hospital including surgeries.
If the surgeries for which facilities are not available or the required expert cardiac surgeon personnel are not available in the teaching hospital, then the cardiac cell of the teaching hospital will first enquire with the other government teaching hospitals as to whether they can handle the required type of surgeries.
If any of the other teaching hospitals in the State have such spare capacity, the case will be referred to there. If not, it will be referred to the nearest private hospital that can perform such surgery. An identification card is issued to the patient for this purpose, by the government cardiac cell of the teaching hospital.
In case, the patient comes back to the hospital concerned at a later date, where surgery is performed, the hospital should have to take proper care of the patient. It should not insist reference from the cardiac cell.
Congress MP V Hanumantha Rao demands that the Central government bear the cost of operations. "Thousands of children are in a critical condition for lack of medical facilities. The State government does not have the resources to fund the critical heart operations of children who are waiting for months for heart operations. Many children are also dying while they wait for heart operations in Andhra Pradesh. The Central government should pay attention to this critical problem," he pointed out.

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