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Sunday , January 19, 2014

Pentavalent vaccine: Vaccine vs free vaccine?

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The pentavalent vaccine has been recommended for national scale-up in India. It was first introduced in two states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in 2011 as part of the national vaccination programme. The vaccine has so far made its way to seven more states. India has the highest infant and child under 5 mortality rate in the world. The pentavalent vaccine provides protection against five killer diseases-Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, and Hib infections. India's traditional defence against the first three diseases has been the DPT vaccine. But the pentavalent vaccine promises to save more lives. The decision to push the vaccine nationally also comes after a significant report in September 2013 from the National AEFI committee, which monitors the adverse events following immunization (AEFI) in the country. It clarified that the 18 deaths reported in Kerala in the last year, after due investigation, were found as not related....

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anitbiotic resistance in India: Are there solutions?

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Antibiotic resistance has become one of the biggest public health epidemics of our time. While national data on hospital acquired infections is still elusive, the Indian government admits that 80% of antibiotics are used in the community, and that 20-50% of all antibiotic use is inappropriate. For some chronic diseases like tuberculosis, the problem of multi drug resistance is already becoming more of an issue than the disease itself. According to the Public Health Foundation of India, India records 70 000 new multi drug resistant tuberculosis cases every year. Sooner or later, experts warn, we are in real danger that these previously "curable" diseases may become "uncurable," simply because the drugs will no longer work, or will only partially work. While there's still an onus on researchers to find newer drugs for chronic diseases, experts say, it is the problem of antibiotic resistance, growing at an alarming rate in....

Tuesday , October 29, 2013

A 100 million lives, up in smoke

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So it seems that the apocalypse didn't occur and the world hasn't come to an end. 2012 is not the end of existence as we know it-the Mayans were wrong. But take a closer look, and you wonder if the prophecy was true after all. The Mayans thought it would be a big storm, but then they did not know of cigarettes back then, did they? In my own country, India, 100 million deaths have been predicted, in fact, declared. This is the number of deaths-some of which have already occurred and many that are yet to occur-because of smoking over the past 100 years in India. In a recent study, scientists and researchers have tried to assess the damage, and the worst is yet to come. In India nearly 4.52 trillion cigarettes and 40.3 trillion beedis were produced in the 100 years between 1910 and 2010.....

Friday , April 12, 2013

Why are those perfectly sweet tasting pills actually bitter?

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Last you read, I prepared you with reasons why it is important to stay ahead in the race of - smart bacteria that can kill you Vs new antibiotics to save you. So, just how to save the precious antibiotic reserve? SCENARIO 1 Each time you feel sick, have a sore throat or fever...it basically means that some germs have raided your body. You are down with some infection. It could be viral or it could be bacterial. Sore throat is a viral infection. Common cold is also caused by a virus. Fever, remember is always only a symptom. Not the problem itself. Dengue fever is caused by a virus. Malaria is caused by a parasite, so it is neither a bacteria nor a virus. Now what do most of us do? Unless we have an exceptionally handsome-looking GP or sweetheart lady to listen to all your....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why humans aren't really the only smart race

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So we as humans think we are the smartest race. Well, we are. I don't disagree. Just look at the planes and cars and electricity and music and movies...the list can go on...I will leave that to you to be proud of whatever you want to be proud of.. but just when that list would begins to wane.. we step into the puddle.. We humans are smart...but we aren't the only smart ones. And no, I am not talking about aliens striking us down from the sky, rendering us incapable...! Instead, please crane your neck down and look carefully into the puddle you just stepped in. Zoom in please, into the world of microbes. Let me first give you a perspective on their history. Have you ever wondered about extinct races? Dinosaurs and a-lot-of-other-saurs that could trample you down and were capable of chewing your bones to....

Tuesday , April 09, 2013

The resistant gene

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So when a national newspaper broke this story on how water in New Delhi was contaminated with a superbug, of course it sounded like something that could kill you. It was headline-grabbing stuff but after some frantic phone calls, I found out the truth. No, you won't fall sick just by drinking the Delhi water. It was safe enough. At least, as safe as it has been all this while. But then, most of you didn't know that. You were still getting ready for work, grabbing your morning grub and must have been bloody worried when you saw that headline in the newspaper. I understand. So on a mission to help worried souls like you, at 3 in the afternoon, I found myself thrusting the microphone under the chins of two individuals having awesome credentials, just back in India (stop looking so hassled! Lemme make it simpler....

Saturday , January 12, 2013

What rape victims need: an open letter to the medical community

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The brutal gangrape and death of a 23-year-old paramedics student in New Delhi has left India enraged and shocked and a dialogue on reforms in rape laws has set in. But a crucial need for reform also lies within the medical community, an onus waiting to be taken up. For most of us, rape is unimaginable. We cringe at the idea of it. Off and on, when newspapers report of it, we feel sad, enraged, helpless, not necessarily in that particular order. We discuss it with colleagues and friends, over lunch or coffee, recount our 'scary' moments from the past, that feeling of being stalked, and then we move on. Away. But unfortunately, for a victim of rape, there is no moving on from it. There is no wishing it away. I am afraid, never. In India, more than 23,000 rape cases were registered in 2011, but....

Thursday , October 11, 2012

A plea for sanity…

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"I don't want this bill..." she said, sitting in the garden at the Women's Press Club. "If the health ministry means it when it says that we are like any other patients, then just treat us like one. Make more dispensaries, physicians...and let us walk in and walk out with the medicines...as simple as that," she quoted. Bhargavi Davar does not look 50. I told her again as I left the place. And she definitely did not look like a mental health patient to me either. And that's the point of it all, I thought, as I made my way back to work after the rather quick interview session. NO - you will NOT find them roaming in the streets, so don't look for it - said her unspoken resolve. We may not realise, or to be honest, admit it, even if it stared us right into....

Thursday , October 04, 2012

Cheap drugs or just cheap tricks?

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I still remember meeting a young man of 26 who ate only once a day, to save money to pay for his mother's cancer drugs. And for me... that's what the new pharma pricing policy is all about. Given a country full of bursting cancer wards, TB, HIV/AIDS... and more poor people than we can afford...lets get this clear - no amount of charity is going to save us. But a policy in the right direction is a different matter. For the past 5 years, a group of ministers headed by Mr Pawar have been rethinking the whole concept of how much lifesaving drugs should or should not cost. After a Supreme Court deadline this year, at least some ideas saw the light of the day... The proposed pharma pricing policy, has expanded the National Essential Medicines List from only 74 drugs (all these years) to 348....

Tuesday , July 31, 2012

When we're hungry... love will...

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It's about a woman called Sita and this is her story! "Meri bachi ko bachpan mein tv nahi dekhne ko milta tha...par aaj meri bacchi tv pe aa rahi hai.." Her eyes were wet. I went and sat on the arm of the sofa that she was sitting on edgily, my hand rubbing her back. I knew that it wouldn't help. Mothers, you know the way they feel, get overwhelmed and all. It may have looked like I was trying to comfort her. But in reality, I was just sitting as close as possible to feel her love for her daughter. "Jab mera baccha log chota tha na.. to hamare ghar mein tv nahi tha... padosi ke ghar jate the.. Ramayan, Mahabharat ya cartoon dekhne ke liye.. to bhaga dete the... dadi ke ghar jate to TV band kar dete. Aankhon mein aansoon leke....


More about Shalini

Was the kid lost in science books at school, practically lived in the science labs at high school but that love affair diverted to mass media studies during graduation. When you have a combination like that, there plops a health journalist. And after 6 years of work now, she still feels she hasn't talked enough about YOUR health - all that you want to know & need to know on pandemics, major public health concerns (tobacco products must be banned!), new miracle medicines & treatments on the horizon to drugs that should banned here & now…And more importantly, about the people behind these stories. The real reasons, real inspirations. Constantly complains that not everything can be said in a minute & a half. Hence this blog – takes you behind the scenes, beyond the bytes. She loves to cook a good story but once off the screen, can’t cook a thing in the kitchen to save her life. Finds it equally impossible to keep a cupboard/desktop tidy. Is a known bookworm, blog-worm (if that’s a word) & a chai freak!