Is it Asthma or COPD?

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are chronic diseases involving airflow obstruction and are consequences of gene environment interaction. COPD includes progressive respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis and is characterized by decreased airflow over time and increased inflammation. While airway obstruction in asthma is reversible, airflow limitation in COPD is usually not reversible, although one third of COPD patients do respond to bronchodilators agents and show good reversibility.

Raising taxes to reduce tobacco use

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent, Nepal                                 
Image credit: WHO
This year’s World No Tobacco Day was majorly centered on the mission of higher taxes on tobacco products to discourage tobacco consumption, especially among the youths. In various programmes organized on that day (May 31, 2014) in different countries all over the world, tobacco control experts emphasized on implementing the taxation policy as per the guideline of WHO. 

Management of respiratory diseases beyond drugs: Pulmonary Rehabilitation

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
A very interesting and informative panel discussion on Pulmonary Rehabilitation (PR) of patients of respiratory diseases was held as part of the 20th National Conference on Environmental Sciences and Pulmonary Diseases (20th NESCON), organized by the Academy of Respiratory Medicine, under the auspices of Environmental Medical Association in Mumbai.

Oxygen therapy is like a prescription drug: Use it rationally

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
An optimum amount of oxygen is essential for the functioning and survival of all body tissues and even a few minutes deprivation can prove fatal. When saturation level of oxygen in the body falls due to some respiratory illness or injury then we need to replenish it artificially to maintain an optimum level by giving oxygen therapy to the patient. This method of dealing with ‘respiratory failure’ was explained succinctly by Dr Girija Nair, Head Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Mumbai on the 1st day of 20th NESCON, (20th National Conference On Environmental Sciences And Pulmonary Diseases), organized by the Academy of Respiratory Medicine in Mumbai under the auspices of Environmental Medical Association.

Tackle hepatitis C to save people living with HIV

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
The WHO recognizes that the ‘silent epidemic’ of viral hepatitis affects a large part of the world’s population causing over 1.4 million deaths every year, yet remains largely unknown or ignored. It is estimated that 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and more than 185 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). These numbers far exceed the number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) estimated at 34 million.

Let us Give Serious Thought To E-cigarettes

Diana Wangari, CNS Correspomdent, Kenya
(First published in The Star, Kenya) 
When I was younger, back in those days when my biggest worry was if I would get home in time to watch cartoons, I underwent a 'stealing phase'. I call it a phase because we have all passed through it in one way or another. Whether it is coming home with a friend's pencil which was so pretty that it had to be yours or picking a few 'extra' coins from your mother's purse to buy sweets and in those days the economy wasn't what it was now, coins meant something, especially amongst six year olds who would consider you a billionaire for being able to buy them all lollipops. Those were the days.

Unhealthy diets are threatening global health

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
An estimated 65% of the world’s population lives in countries where obesity leads to more deaths than underweight. In 2012, over 40 million children under the age of five were considered overweight or obese, 30 million of who were living in developing countries. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Assessing Nigeria’s anti-tobacco campaign

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria 
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria)  
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that tobacco causes over six million deaths every year, and over 600,000 of these deaths are induced by second-hand smoke. In adults, second-hand tobacco smoke causes several diseases, including coronary heart disease and lung cancer. In infants, it causes sudden death, while in pregnant women, it causes low birth weight.

Apply by 30 June for The Union and Otsuka awards

Photo credit: Jens Jeske
The deadline is approaching for the annual Union awards for exceptional contributions to tuberculosis control or lung health, as well as the new Young Innovator in TB Research Award sponsored by International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and Otsuka SA.  Interested persons are invited to apply for these important awards, and past applicants are welcome to re-apply. 

'Serving the larger good by participating in anti-HIV gel study'

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
One of the most important voices to listen to, and learn from, in a clinical research study are those of the study participants. Their experiences, perspectives, motivations and concerns are of paramount importance, we believe. Two study participants, who are participating in a first-ever phase-II extended safety study of a rectal microbicide gel in Asia-Pacific region, agreed to speak with Citizen News Service (CNS). This study, formally called MTN017, began in February 2014 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Communities are equal partners in clinical research

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
"Community engagement starts before a research trial begins and continues alongside as science moves forward" said a Community Advisory Board (CAB) member of MTN017 study. MTN017 study is a rectal microbicide phase-II extended safety study to prevent HIV transmission among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women. Citizen News Service (CNS) team visited the MTN017 study site in Research Institute for Health Sciences (RIHES), Chiang Mai University in early June 2014 and interviewed key researchers, nurse counselors, CAB coordinator, CAB member, MSM study participant, transgender study participant, laboratory director, among others.

Call to strengthen clinical research trial management in South-East Asia

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
RIHES Laboratory, CMU
Since South-East Asian nations share a significant burden of major health challenges, it is important to strengthen clinical research management processes in these nations so that they can find relevant health solutions in their local contexts and ground realities. Thailand is undoubtedly an exception in South-East Asia with robust clinical research trials happening there since the past many years. But a lot remains to be desired in terms of clinical trial management capacity in countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Philippines, among others.

'Community Advisory Board is a bridge between researchers and community'

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
Engaging communities genuinely in scientific research and keeping them updated is of paramount importance to ensure that ethical issues are addressed as science moves ahead. The Community Advisory Board (CAB) plays a very crucial and important role in involving the community with the actual implementation of any clinical study. In an interview given to Citizen News Service (CNS), Dr Suwat Chariyalertsak, Director of Research Institute for Health Sciences (RIHES), Chiang Mai University, told that the Chiang Mai site in Thailand has two CABs-- the prevention CAB (for MTN017 study) around HIV prevention research and the treatment CAB (for HTPN 052 study) for treatment related research.

Research study to test anti-HIV gel for gay men and transgenders commences in Chiang Mai

Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant, CNS
Dr Suwat Chariyalertsak, RIHES
at PIMAN Centre
Overall new HIV infection rates have dipped by 26% in Asia and the Pacific region since 2001, but not for key populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people (source: UNAIDS Asia Pacific report, November 2013). According to estimates, between 15% and 25% MSM of this region are living with HIV, largely in major cities. In China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, the estimated national HIV prevalence for MSM is over 5%. And it continues to rise in several cities and regions within these countries, as well as in India, Mongolia and the Philippines, underlining the need for a greater attention for HIV prevention.

Patriarchy is the root cause of gender injustice

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
(Based on an interview given to CNS by Ivy Josiah, Executive Director, Women’s Aid Organization, Malaysia, during the 2nd Asia Pacific Feminist Forum—APFF 2014-- held recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand)
The overarching challenges which women are facing in the Asia Pacific region are fundamentalism and the return of conservative politics. Religion and culture are being used to promote a particular kind of politics which is usurping women’s rights. Militarization, fundamentalism and globalization are joining forces with patriarchy to worsen the civil and political rights of women resulting in more inequality.

Follow the money: World No Tobacco Day 2014

Alice Tembe, CNS Correspondent, Swaziland
In the effort to curb the over half a million deaths due to second hand smoking which took place in 2011 as indicated by The Tobacco Atlas (, it is continuously becoming indicative that a single strategy will not resolve the tobacco challenge. Public health strategies to increase public awareness in order to prevent and demand recourse against the harmful effects of tobacco products, use of mass media (including social networking sites that target the younger generation) to desist from starting smoking; marketing bans and litigation are key strategies that countries can adopt in this effort.

Run Away From Tobacco -- Experts Caution Diabetes Patients

Eranga Isaac, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
As the world marked the World No Tobacco Day 2014, experts cautioned sufferers of diabetes to desist from the use of tobacco, saying it will lead to more complications. Speaking to CNS, Dr. (Mrs.) Omoye Amusa a Consultant at the Stella Obasanjo Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria informed that diabetes is a group of diseases in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal. She added that most of the food a person eats is turned into glucose (a kind of sugar) for the body’s cells to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin that helps glucose get into the body’s cells.

Despite progress, long way remains for gender justice

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Despite women’s rights to economic, social and cultural equality, poverty and discrimination still remains the reality for a large majority of them in the Asia Pacific region. Women not only comprise 70% of the world’s poor, they are also victims of the greed and avarice of the powers that are. They are the ones who endure physical, mental and emotional hardships and are yet denied any political or economic gains.

Tobacco: A Plant, A Smoke or a Stroke of Death?

Timothy Bamidele, CNS Correspondent, Nigeria
Tobacco is a plant within the genus Nicotiana of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. While there are more than 70 species of tobacco, the chief commercial crop is N. tabacum. The more potent species N. rustica is also widely used around the world. Dried tobacco leaves are mainly smoked in cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and flavored shisha tobacco.

Malawi reluctant towards anti-smoking campaign

WHO picture on tobacco tax
Owen Nyaka, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) is championing the anti-smoking campaign in an effort to protect people from the devastating health consequences due to tobacco consumption, Malawi government shows no signs of putting in place public health policies as a top priority to safeguard people’s lives, on the same lines as cigarette manufacturing companies are booming.

It is easier to stay out than to get out

Carolyn Kavita Tauro, CNS Correspondent
It was World No Tobacco Day on the 31st of May… So what? We, the non-tobacco consumers, carried out a few rallies, made pledges to never smoke again (for those who did), made a few speeches about the loved ones we have lost to tobacco, shed a few tears and begged our smoker friends to stop smoking… to please stop smoking. What is really all the fuss about?

Connecting the dots: Women, climate change and natural resources

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
There is a growing struggle in communities of the Asia Pacific region for environmental justice. This is true of other developing countries too where development projects challenge the traditional ways of life. Policies of increasing consumption and unregulated exploitation of natural resources have made life on our planet unsustainable. Women who account for nearly 66% of the people living in extreme poverty bear the brunt of policies of increasing consumption and unregulated exploitation of natural resources, leading to gross inequity and insecurity.