No other way out: We need to early diagnose TB and treat with drugs that work

Dr Madhukar Pai, Director,
McGill Global Health Prog.
CNS Image Library, 2013
It may sound rhetorical but some of the 'absolute must' steps for progressing towards ending tuberculosis (TB) are to early and accurately diagnose TB and treat with the standard combination of drugs that are sensitive and work for a particular patient. Although sounds simplistic yet these are 'easier said than done' steps! Agrees globally-noted expert on TB diagnosis: "Early diagnosis is a huge problem in India. Not only it is critical to diagnose TB early but also drug-resistant forms of TB, otherwise it is going to be a phenomenal problem! This is what is happening in places like Mumbai where delayed TB diagnosis and even-further delayed drug susceptibility testing (DST) have proved catastrophic" said Dr Madhukar Pai, Director, McGill Global Health Programs, who was speaking at the centenary celebrations of Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi on 24th April 2015.

"She who does not tire, tires adversity": Savitri

Photo credit: Rahul D/CNS
Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS 
[CNS Images] Savitri, a mother of 6 children—5 daughters and 1 son—became a widow 12 years after her marriage, when her husband, the eldest of three brothers, died of electrocution. Narrating her tearful story, Savitri said that fate had been unkind to her from her early childhood. Her father died when she was a child. They were two sisters and one brother. Savitri had to discontinue her studies after Class 8, and had to stay home to do household chores as her mother would go out to work in the fields.

Time to walk the talk for accelerating towards TB-free India

India's fight against tuberculosis (TB) has made remarkable progress despite which formidable challenges remain. With the launch of 'Call To Action For TB Free India' last week amidst strong commitment from India's Health Ministry and other partners in fight against TB, it is high time to start preparing and acting upon the promises made towards ending TB in India, and eventually, the world.

Mr Prime Minister, your words do not match your actions

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Vallabh bhai,
and volunteers cleaning
Ganga in Varanasi
Dr Rahul Pandey, CNS Columnist
In an impromptu debate in the Lok Sabha on the tragic suicide of farmer Gajendra Singh in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed pain and said that farmers cannot be left to fend for themselves. He admitted that the problem afflicting the farmers is old, deep-rooted and wide-spread. While the PM appeared to be concerned about farmers’ crisis, his government’s actions on the ground tell quite an opposite story. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, about 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in India since 1995, with an average of 46 farmer suicides every day.

'Call to Action' launch catalyzes fight against TB

Image credit: CNS:
India has made impressive gains in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) but significant challenges still confront us in the path ahead to eliminate TB. The launch of 'Call To Action For A TB Free India' by Sri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, in Delhi on 23rd April 2015, is aimed to catalyse progress towards ending TB in India. "This TB Free India campaign aims to unite existing and new stakeholders in the fight against TB and bring together our knowledge, resources and capacity to better equip us to beat TB" said Dr KS Sachdeva, Additional Director General, Central TB Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.

Watchdog group monitors delivery of HIV/AIDS services in Zimbabwe

Garikai Chaunza, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
Photo Credit: CNS
(First published in FSRN News, Zimbabwe)
In Zimbabwe, people living with HIV/AIDS have launched a programme to monitor the health care they receive in order to trace the gaps, shortcomings and loopholes in access and availability to services. Government records show that nearly one-tenth of Zimbabwe’s population of 13 million lives with the virus. Of these, only half receive regular treatment, according to the Ministry of Health and Child Care. Almost 1.3 million people in Zimbabwe are HIV-positive. Most receive treatment at government hospitals or local public clinics.

Land Acquisition Bill takes away rights of farmers and pits them against 'Make in India'

Dr Rahul Pandey and Dr Sandeep Pandey, CNS Columnists
Since the past several months we have seen the NDA government aggressively pushing through changes in land acquisition policy, first in the form of Ordinance in December 2014 and then, as it was passed as a Bill with nine changes in Lok Sabha but faced roadblock in Rajya Sabha, re-promulgating it before its expiry in April 2015. With the government calling the Bill pro-farmer and pro-development and most of opposition parties and social activists opposing it as anti-farmer, it is useful to sieve through the noise and look at the changes proposed and what existed earlier.

"Hard work is the key to success": Kamlesh

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Photo credit: Rahul D/ CNS
[CNS Images] 50 years old Kamlesh is the mother of 5 children—3 daughters and 2 sons. Her two daughters are already married and one of the sons has recently joined a job in Mumbai after doing his B.Tech. Kamlesh comes from a farmer’s family and was married into a similar one. Out of her 3 sisters and 2 brothers, one brother became a veterinary doctor — the others could not study due to poverty. But she was good at farming and also adept at stitching, knitting, embroidery, cooking and other household work. Yet all these womanly skills became the cause of many a discomfort after her marriage.

Why MPs might hold the last card in TB control

Diana Wangari, CNS Correspondent, Kenya
Photo credit: CNS:
(First published in The Star News, Kenya)
When it comes to combating health epidemics and strengthening health systems in a country, the role of our elected leaders should not be underestimated. Think about the huge difference it would make if there were political will behind health initiatives. Every Member of Parliament would be working with their constituencies.

Call for applications: CNS Health Fellowship Programme 2015-2016 for health writers

Citizen News Service (CNS) is pleased to announce that it is currently accepting applications for new fellows for its CNS Health Fellowship Programme 2015-2016. This programme offers  mentorship, peer support, networking opportunities, and technical assistance to health writers on neglected health priorities. Last date to apply is Friday, 29th May 2015. To learn more about CNS Health Fellows 2011, 2012 and 2013, 2014 click here

Epilepsy: A disease of poverty in Nepal

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent, Nepal
Image credit: 
Epilepsy, a neurological problem, is present globally, but studies indicate that  its presence is highly dense in developing countries. Experts opine that malnutrition is the major cause behind the wide spread of this disease. It is because of the malnutrition which affects inhibitory neurotransmitters and electrolytes that stimulate the brain activities. Senior Neurophysician Dr. Niranjan Acharya from the Department of Medicine, Civil Service Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal elaborates that epilepsy is a chronic disorder which massively affects the personal, psychological and social dimensions of the patients.

Are we ready for a TB vaccine?

Diana Wangari, CNS Correspondent, Kenya
Image credit: 
(First publish in the Star News, Kenya)
Do you remember receiving a TB vaccine? Or are you, like some of my friends, not quite sure about what I am referring to and require that I ask: "Do you have a mark on your upper left forearm?" A mark left after receiving the BCG Vaccine. Perhaps, I should start at the beginning. Recently, I attended a workshop organised by Aeras – a biotech organisation whose mission is to develop new TB vaccines.

God helps those who help themselves: Kunta Devi

Photo credit: Rahul D/ CNS
Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
[CNS images] One day, more than 20 years ago, Kunta Devi’s husband never returned home from his workplace at a brick kiln and has been untraceable since then. He seemed to have vanished into thin air, leaving his wife alone with their 3 children—I daughter and 2 sons, with the youngest one barely 2 years old. Kunta does not know if he is dead or alive.  She now lives with her 2 sons and their wives and 4 grandchildren—3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.

World Health Day: No substitute to healthy mind

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Image credit: CNS:
We all aspire to be healthy and at times go to great lengths to ward off sickness. The fight against disease begins early on in life with responsible parents ensuring that their kids are administered all available vaccinations ((although there is a small lobby that is against this important preventive measure); as much as possible; they feed them nutritious diet (facing stiff competition from fast food chain offerings) and there is a growing consciousness about the benefits of physical exercise too (despite the allure of the idiot box and the computer).

Not temporarily but permanently firewall public health from industry interference

[Sign the petition] We call upon the Prime Minister of India to permanently firewall public health policy making from tobacco industry interference. If Indian government adapts the conflict of interest clause on lines of the global tobacco treaty's (WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - FCTC) Article 5.3 to complement domestic health laws in India, then it is possible to safeguard public health from industry interference - permanently. If we do not adapt measures nationally on lines of WHO FCTC Article 5.3 then removal of Members of Parliament (MPs) who have a conflict of interest from parliamentary committees will be a one time event - with high risk of repetition. It will be prudent and wise to take into account the high degree of industry interference that occurred recently, and firewall policy making from any such attempts of industry to thwart people's causes.

Illegal mining: A serious problem in India

GD Niveditha, CNS Correspondent
Mining is a very old practice in India. India, as the country is very rich in natural resources, is a leading producer of iron ore and earns a good amount of foreign exchange in coal mining too. It also contributes about 2.2% - 2.5% towards the national GDP (gross domestic product) and these industries provides employment for more than 7,00,000 individuals. But, as it is known, every good thing has a bad side too. Mining in India has seen many scams and scandals such as the illegal mining or improper allocation of coal referred to as Coal-Gate in India. Thus, these not only spoil the reputation of India in buisness, but also leads to increase in social and environmental problems.

Taking Stock: Skewed priorities of the government's budget

Image credit: CNS:
Dr Rahul Pandey, CNS Columnist
Skewed Priorities of the government: Write-off in customs duty on gold, diamond and jewellery is about twice the cut in total budget for health, education, women and child development, drinking water and sanitation!

Tobacco control and human rights: Any linkages?

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Image credit: CNS:
Tobacco control actions need to underline that health is an important human rights issue and a willful denial of it by anyone—whether by the tobacco industry or by the tobacco consumers--is a breach of right to good health. The recently concluded 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH 2015) stressed upon a human rights based approach to tobacco control at individual, community and country levels.

Call to put tobacco control under gender lens

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Image credit: CNS:
Tobacco kills 6 million of its one of the best users every year. So the tobacco industry needs to attract new customers to replace those who die or quit in order to keep their sales and profits up. And who could be a better target than the vulnerable group of women and children. Several symposia held during the recent 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health (WCTOH 2015) in Abu Dhabi, focussed on the gender aspect of tobacco control. Speaker after speaker cited that the tobacco industry has been wooing women all around the world by implementing specific marketing campaigns targetted at women, especially in developing countries, with a view to feminize tobacco use. The magnitude of their impact is clearly visible.