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Parliamentary panel red-flags government’s ambitious healthcare scheme

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RSBY

New Delhi, March 13: The Modi government has released less than half of the budgeted allocation for health insurance of poor families in fiscal 2017-18, even as it promised to step up coverage with the proposed launch of what is called the world’s largest government healthcare programme.

The revenue allocation of Rs 975 crore for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) was reduced to Rs 565 crore and, as the year progressed, the actual release was just Rs 450 crore — less than half of the budget estimate, according to a parliamentary panel’s report.

“Funds as a central share of premium under RSBY of approximately Rs 450 crore were only released for such states that submitted their proposal during the year 2017-18,” said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in its report.

As for the reason for reducing the budgeted allocation, the panel quoted the Department of Health and Family Welfare, saying: “This ministry had moved a proposal for another scheme with an enhanced cover of Rs 1 lakh per family.

“However, this proposal is still pending with the cabinet. Therefore, such states that were waiting for the new scheme to be launched did not submit any proposal and meanwhile stopped implementation of RSBY.”

Even the amount of Rs 25 crore allocated for capital purposes in 2017-18 for setting up office premises for the proposed scheme with an enhanced cover of Rs 1 lakh remained unutilised during the period as the cabinet approval for the scheme remained pending. The money was surrendered.

The RSBY provided a limited coverage of only Rs 30,000 and there was a proposal to increase it to Rs 1 lakh. While the government had difficulties in implementing the healthcare scheme, it announced the launch a bigger healthcare programme in its Union Budget for 2018-19 last month.

The proposed National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), which would subsume RSBY, would cover 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, and the coverage is further enhanced to Rs 5 lakh per family per year.

However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has warned of possible failures.

The committee reported that the enrolment in RSBY was quite low. “Only 57 percent of eligible are enrolled and less than 12 percent of the eligible persons got their hospitalisation covered through RSBY.”

Citing a comprehensive review of various studies on RSBY, the panel said that in a majority of states (eight out of 14) there was an increase in out-of-pocket expenditure related to RSBY, while only two of 14 studies showed a reduction in expenditure.

It further noted that many states have opted out of RSBY in favour of state-run schemes. “The government should form a committee to analyse the failures of RSBY and ensure that inadequacies plaguing the operation and implementation of RSBY are not repeated.”

The panel observed that the new scheme is just a modification of the earlier one as more than half of the target beneficiaries proposed to be covered under the NHPS were already covered under existing government-supported schemes.

“What would indeed have been a step forward is if it covered out-patient treatment as well, but that is lacking,” said the Parliamentary panel.

IANS

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Eating high-carb diet can help lose weight

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Here’s how a high carb diet may help lose weight. (Photo Credit- Shutterstock)

New York, Sep 25: Struggling hard to shed those extra kilos? If so, foods high in carbohydrates — found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — may help you reduce body weight and fat as well as improve insulin function, suggests a study challenging previous beliefs.

It is because these complex carbohydrates are naturally rich in fibre — a nutrient found in plant foods that adds bulk to the diet without adding extra calories.

The study, led by US-non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, showed that a plant-based, high-carbohydrate diet can help with weight regulation and body composition and reduce the risk for Type-2 diabetes.

“Fad diets often lead people to fear carbohydrates. But the research continues to show that healthy carbohydrates — from fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains — are the healthiest fuel for our bodies,” said lead author Hana Kahleova, Director at the organisation.

In the study, published in the journal Nutrients, the team included nearly 100 participants for a 16-week randomised clinical trial and placed participants in either a plant-based, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet group or asked them to maintain their current diet.

The plant-based diet group avoided all animal products and added oils and limited fat intake of 20-30 grams per day. There were no limits on calories or carbohydrate intake.

The control group maintained their current diets, which included meat and dairy products. Neither group altered their exercise routines.

The results demonstrated that total carbohydrate intake did not change in the control group, but increased significantly in the plant-based diet group, both as absolute intake and as a percentage of total calories.

At the end of the trial, body mass index, body weight, fat mass, visceral fat volume, and insulin resistance decreased significantly in the plant-based diet group. There were no significant changes in the control group, the researchers noted.

IANS

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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

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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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