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Most Indians dependent on private healthcare: Study



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New Delhi, December 3: Households across India still overwhelmingly depend on private providers for healthcare services over public healthcare, a recent study has found.

Senior Fellow at Brookings India, Shamika Ravi, found in her study “Health and Morbidity in India: 2004-2014” that as much as 75 percent of outpatient (OPD) care in India was exclusively private in 2014.

Around 55 per cent of inpatient (IPD) care is from private hospitals, it added.

Ravi, however, noted that dependence on private healthcare is declining.

“Indian households’ dependence on public care has risen by 6 per cent for OPD care and by 7 per cent for IPD care,” she said.

The study based on analysis of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data was released on Friday at Teen Murti House here followed by a panel discussion on “Health and Morbidity in India: Evidence and Policy Implications”.

The study is co-authored by Rahul Ahluwalia and Sofi Bergkvist.

Ravi added that “out of pocket” spending has risen significantly between 2004 and 2014, driven primarily by increase in IPD spending.

“There are large disparities across rural and urban households in terms of real out of pocket expenses for IPD such as doctor’s fees, medicines and diagnostics.

“Compared to a rural household, an urban household spends five times more on diagnostics, 2.6 times more on medicines and 2.4 times more on doctors’ fees,” she said.

Her study noted that the rural-urban differences were very small in 2004 with absolutely no difference in the average real expenditures on medicine per inpatient case.

During the panel discussion that followed, Regional Director of World Health Organisation Poonam Khetrapal said that health seeking behaviour of women is lower in India compared to men and they donot seek healthcare as much as they should.

“We need to address these gaps,” she said.

National Commission for Women Chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam added that most people talk about women health during pregnancy.

“Good health needs to be lifelong and not just focused at the time of pregnancy,” she said.

She added that there is need to focus on traditional foods to maintain good health and one should not depend too much on processed food and additives like multi-vitamins for nutrition.

President of Public Health Foundation of India, K. Srinath Reddy, said that there is need to connect primary healthcare with secondary and tertiary healthcare to achieve better results.

“Many countries with even smaller percentage of GDP allocated for health (compared to India) have achieved better health indicators by focusing on primary healthcare. We need to look into that,” he said.

Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation Secretary T.C.A. Anant said that there is need to use administrative data as well, along with household data, as is used in the study, to arrive at more realistic conclusions.

“There is also need to maintain pressure on authorities to ensure that quality of administrative data is improved,” he said.

Vishav- IANS


New blood test in pregnancy to predict autism risk in babies



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New York, Sep 22: Researchers have developed a novel blood test for pregnant mothers that can, with nearly 90 per cent accuracy rate, predict the probability of having a child that will be diagnosed with autism.

According to studies, if a mother has previously had a child with autism, the risk of having a second child with the developmental disorder is approximately 18.7 per cent, whereas the risk in the general population is approximately 1.7 per cent.

In the study, led by Juergen Hahn, Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, metabolites of the folate-dependent transmethylation and transsulfuration biochemical pathways of pregnant mothers were measured to determine whether or not the risk of having a child with autism could be predicted by her metabolic profile.

Pregnant mothers who have had a child with autism before were separated into two groups based on the diagnosis of their child whether the child had autism or not.

Then these mothers were compared to a group of control mothers who have not had a child with autism before.

The results, appearing in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, showed that while it is not possible to determine during a pregnancy if a child will be diagnosed with autism by age 3, they did find that differences in the plasma metabolites are indicative of the relative risk (18.7 per cent vs 1.7 per cent) for having a child with autism.

“These are exciting results as they hint at differences in some metabolic processes that potentially play a role in increasing the risk of having a child with autism,” Hahn said.

“However, it would be highly desirable if a prediction based upon physiological measurements could be made to determine which risk group a prospective mother falls into,” Hahn noted.


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Eat fish thrice a week to boost your unborn’s eyesight, brain




London, Sep 21: Pregnant women can enhance the development of their unborn child’s eyesight and brain function by regularly eating fatty fish during the pregnancy, a new study has found.

The findings suggested that infants whose mothers ate fish three or more times a week during the last trimester of their pregnancy fared better than those whose mothers ate no fish or only up to two portions per week.

“The results of our study suggest that frequent fish consumption by pregnant women is of benefit for their unborn child’s development,” said lead author Kirsi Laitinen of the University of Turku in Finland.

“This may be attributable to long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids within fish, but also due to other nutrients like vitamin D and E, which are also important for development,” Laitinen added.

For the study, published in the journal Pediatric Research, the research team analysed the results of a small group of mothers and their children drawn from a larger study.

The mothers had to keep a regular food diary during the course of their pregnancy. Fluctuations in their weight before and during pregnancy were taken into account, along with their blood sugar level and blood pressure.

The team recorded the levels of nutritional long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid sources in the mother’s diet and blood serum, and the levels in the blood of their children by the age of one month.

Their children were further tested around their second birthday using pattern reversal visual evoked potentials (pVEP). This sensitive and accurate, non-invasive method is used to detect visual functioning and maturational changes occurring within a young child’s visual system.

“Our study therefore highlights the potential importance of subtle changes in the diet of healthy women with uncompromised pregnancies, beyond prematurity or nutritional deficiencies, in regulating infantile neurodevelopment,” Laitinen noted.


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Eating food cooked on wood, coal may impair your lungs



Food cooked on wood coal
Photo Credit- Daniel Krieger

New York, Sep 21: Love to eat food cooked on the barbecue? Beware, it is associated with increased risk of respiratory illness or death, researchers warned.

Compared to those who used electricity or gas, chronic and acute respiratory disease hospitalisations or deaths were 36 per cent higher among those who used wood or coal for cooking, researchers, from the University of Oxford, have found.

People who switched from solid fuels to clean-burning fuels reduced their risk to only 14 per cent higher than those who never cooked with wood or coal.

It is because solid fuels emit very high levels of pollutants especially very small particles, which penetrate deep into lungs, the researchers explained.

“The increased risk of major respiratory diseases posed by burning wood or coal can be significantly lowered by switching to a clean-burning fuel”, said Zhengming Chen, professor at the varsity’s Nuffield Department of Population Health.

“Our findings make a compelling case to speed up the global implementation of universal access to affordable clean energy, one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” Chen said.

Nearly three billion people around the world live in households that regularly burn wood, coal or other solid fuels to cook their food.

Typically, these households are found in the rural areas of low- and middle-income countries.

For the study, published in the journal American Thoracic Society, the team analysed the health records of 280,000 adults, aged 30 to 79 from 10 areas of China.

They were followed for nine years and 19,823 were either hospitalised or died following major respiratory diseases.

Of these events, 10,553 were due to asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and 7,324 were due to acute lower respiratory infections, most often pneumonia.


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