Monday, September 24, 2012

Meeting the Heathcare Challenge of the 21st Century South Asia

It is a great challenge of the 21st century to provide the best possible universal health care at the lowest possible cost. It's in fact a dual challenge. While aging and obesity related diseases are the dominant concern in the West, there is continuing worry about more basic issues of hygiene, vaccination, nutrition and access to health care professionals in the developing world, including South Asia. What is common between these two is the increasing reliance on technology.

Technologies ranging from new toilets, water purification, bio-fortification, diagnostics and computing and communication to nano-biotechnology and bioengineering are being developed and deployed to prevent and fight all kinds of diseases around the world. In the video below I join a discussion of the current state of health care and how to meet the challenges of this century:

Vision 2047 from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

World Water Day: Water Scarce Pakistan 

Malnutrition Challenge in India and Pakistan 

Pak Lady Health Workers "Best in the World"

Obesity in America

India and Pakistan: Off-Track, Off-Target on Toilets

Fixing Sanitation Crisis in India

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia

Peepli Live Destroys Indian Myths

India After 63 Years of Independence

Poverty Across India 2011

British Pakistan Wins "Re-invent the Toilet" Contest

1 comment:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of how Lahore fought dengue outbreak in 2011:

..“No one expected this kind of political commitment,” said Qutbuddin Kakar, who oversees programmes to combat malaria and dengue in Pakistan for the World Health Organization (WHO). “In this part of the world, at least, we had not seen this kind of response before.”

The anticipated 1,000-plus deaths did not occur, and since then, dengue fever cases have dropped - 200 in the province (Punjab) last year, without any reported deaths.


The results they collect are processed on site by specially-designed Android based applications on their smartphones, and uploaded to a centralized dengue prevention centre.

There, analysts match the entomological data with reports from hospitals showing where dengue patients are being treated. Based on the findings, a team is sent to fumigate areas where aedes mosquitos seem to be breeding and infecting people, or to identify and remove sources of standing water.

The key season for infections comes with monsoon rains, when the aedes aegyptus and aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which can carry the virus, begin to appear.

Chronology of an outbreak

In August 2011 heavy monsoon rain dumped 13 inches in a week, leaving parts of Lahore with large bodies of standing water, and raising immediate concerns about disease.

By mid-October, the provincial government in Punjab reported that more than 11,000 dengue cases were recorded by the provincial government.

“It was an exponential increase in number, and it really frightened the government,” said Faran Naru, a consultant hired by the provincial government to tackle the problem. “And the issue was resonating in the media... so it created a panic in the public which had to be contained.”

Most people infected with dengue recovered on their own, said Naru, but once media outlets began reporting on the extent of the outbreak, thousands showed up at hospitals and laboratories to get tested.

An initial team of 70 entomologists conducted 12,000 spot-checks to track where aedes mosquitos were present. By mid-October, this data had been mapped, along with the locations of 11,000 reported dengue patients.

The results surprised the scientists. The worst affected areas were some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Lahore: Model Town, Race Course, Mozang, and Gulberg.

“I saw that in Model Town there is a big park, and in Race Course there are two of Lahore's biggest parks… and I believe lots of breeding was happening there and mosquitoes were leaving from there and infecting people,” said Naru.

The mosquitoes need fresh water to lay their eggs, and the large puddles in Lahore's biggest public parks proved to be ideal homes.

Another hotspot was the Mozang neighbourhood, home to one of Pakistan's largest graveyards. The 150-acre area was found to be a major breeding ground for mosquitos. Gravediggers had dug large pits to hold water, which they used to soften the dirt when digging.

“It's fresh water,” said Naur, “from the tap, and there were 70 pits, and all of those were infected, full of larvae.”

Back in the hospital, dengue patients were separated into special areas for treatment. The home of each dengue patient was fumigated, along with 12 surrounding houses, three in each direction.

Sanitation workers unclogged sewers and drains in an effort to clear areas of rainwater; and parks, gardens, and cemeteries were also sprayed. Thousands of Mosquitofish and Garden Carp - fish species known to attack mosquito larvae - were also released into ponds and ditch canals.

Within a few weeks, entomologists detected far fewer aedes mosquitoes, and the prevalence of dengue cases rapidly decreased.