Tobacco Use in India a Costly Burden

July 9, 2014–The New Indian Express

“An economic burden of 1.15 percent of GDP is caused by tobacco use in the country. People tend to ignore indirect and invisible costs resulting from the use of tobacco, said K Ellangovan, secretary, Health and Family Welfare Dept.

‘In 2010, it has been assessed that in India, 35 percent of people use tobacco and the majority below age 49. Hence, the government cannot ignore this. A multi-pronged approach is required to bring tobacco use under control,’ [the secretary of the Health and Family Welfare Dept.] said.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Indian-American doctors focus on giving back to India

July 1, 2014–The Indo-Asian News Service

“One of the largest ethnic organisations in the US representing about 100,000 Indian doctors settled here is focusing on enhancing collaboration among physicians of Indian Origin across the world and India. The India focus of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) was highlighted as the mantle of leadership passed on to its new president Dr. Ravi Jahagirdar at their annual convention here that was attended by India’s new health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan. Jahagirdar was administered the oath of office by outgoing president Dr. Jayesh Shah during the presidential gala here Saturday at the just concluded 32nd annual convention of AAPI attended by nearly 2,000 delegates from across the US. Harsh Vardhan flew in from New Delhi to be part of the five day AAPI convention at the Grand Hyatt Henry Gonzalez Convention Centre in San Antonio, Texas, one of the fastest growing and the 7th largest city in the US.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Center for Global Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital Launches CAMTech INDIA

June 23, 2014

The Center for Global Health at the Massachusetts General Hospital (USA) today announced the launch of CAMTech INDIA, an initiative to catalyze the development and adoption of new technologies to address preventable causes of death among women and children in India. As a public-private partnership, CAMTech INDIA convenes a diverse network of innovators across public health, engineering and business to target pressing, unmet clinical needs in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH). The initiative is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/India), the Omidyar Network, and the Bacca Foundation.

“CAMTech INDIA will bring together a powerful network of innovators in India who are passionate about developing life-saving technologies to benefit women and children,” said Elizabeth Bailey, Director of the Consortium for Affordable Medical Technologies (CAMTech). “We have a laser-focus on the urgent clinical needs of women and children in India, because meaningful health technology innovation starts with a clear understanding of the medical context.”

Learn more about Hack-a-thons:
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An initial $2 million USD investment for CAMTech INDIA will support four key activities. In addition to Clinical Summits and Medical Technology Hack-a-thons, Innovation Awards draw on the broad pipeline of RMNCH technologies in India and provide seed funding to determine clinical impact, technical feasibility and commercial viability. The Accelerator Program provides ongoing mentorship to entrepreneurs to remove barriers to successfully deploying new technologies into clinical environments.

CAMTech INDIA will draw on the expertise of many local partners. Glocal Healthcare, which runs a chain of rural hospitals in India and houses its own Medical Technologies Division, will be CAMTech INDIA’s implementation partner for Clinical Summits and Hack-a-thons. InnAccel, an incubator for affordable medical technology ventures in India, will serve as CAMTech INDIA’s Accelerator partner. Other key partners include the Public Health Foundation of India, the Lata Medical Research Foundation, Narayana Health, and Vellore Institute of Technology in India; MIT’s H@cking Medicine and Harvard Medical School in the US; and Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda.

For more information on partners and CAMTech, please visit:

Increase availability of toilets, reduce incidence of rape

June 9, 2014–NPR

“Women are increasingly afraid to go outside to answer nature’s call. (More than half of 1.2 billion people in India live without toilets.) ‘They fear for their lives performing the simplest bodily function.’

Many women wait until it is dark outside to leave the house and relieve themselves. Two weeks ago, two teenagers were followed, raped, and hanged at a remote place in Uttar Pradesh. Many believe this would not have happened if the young women had access to toilets.

Households that can afford to build a latrine often don’t. Social entrepreneur Bindeshwar Patak has offered to build a toilet in a rural Haryana village. ‘Resident Shelia Nahelia says her husband refused because of the expense. So Nahelia stitched clothes to raise $50, her family’s portion of the cost and a small fortune for her.’

As the outraged social movement grows, there is a “No Toilet, No Bride” campaign. India’s former rural development minister, Jairam Ramesh, ‘would go out and exhort women not to get married into families that did not have a toilet. And this worked. In many parts of the country, women refused.’ Increased government assistance for building toilets has spurred construction, as has the issue of women’s privacy.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

India at the Forefront in Generic Pharmaceuticals

May 30, 2014–Times of India

“Generic producers in India have brought down the prices of lifesaving drugs used to treat diseases such as HIV, TB and cancer by as much as 90%. In the 1990s, HIV/AIDS drugs cost $12,000 per patient a year which saved patients in the US but not in Africa. The world seemed to accept the unacceptable until in 2001 an Indian pharma company produced a three-in-one HIV/AIDS treatment for $1 a day.

In his May 30, 2014 Times of India article, Kiran Mazumdar Shah discusses how Indian pharmaceuticals keep drugs affordable. As the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, he asserts that India’s generics are critical to President Obama’s affordable health program. “Data from the 2013 Generic Drug Savings in the US report shows that generic pharmaceuticals saved the American health system and patients $217 billion in 2012 and a staggering $1.3 trillion in the most recent decade.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Health high on Modi’s agenda–Industry awaits implementation

May 19, 2014–Business Standard

“India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims to revamp the NRHM (National Rural Health Mission). Among the NRHM objectives was to decentralize the health delivery system in some of the poorest states. Narendra Modi is the head of the BJP and soon-to-be-sworn Prime Minister.

Narendra Modi Pictures, Images, Photos
Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister

According to Sujatha Rao (Harvard MPA ’90), former secretary in the health ministry and one who has worked in the healthcare sector for over 20 years, the new regime should decentralize and build capacites of the states and districts to plan and implement health policies. ‘Currently, NRHM is a Centre driven programme. There is a need for architectural correction in the system and states have to be made active partners in that,’ she emphasized.

Rao added the new government must institutionalize reforms to address complex healthcare challenges. ‘The Centre should focus on providing public goods like piped water supply, sanitation, public hygiene and access to basic health care,’ she said.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Conflict of interest in setting norms for pharmaceuticals in WHO

May 17, 2014– Times of India

“The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) work of setting up norms and standards for production of medicines seems to be flawed by a fundamental conflict of interest. At the heart of its standard setting work is an entity, the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH), in which majority of the WHO member countries have no voting rights and which is dominated by pharmaceutical industry groups. This glaring conflict of interest seems to fly in the face of WHO’s policy on engagement with private entities which states that the development of norms, standards, policies and strategies which lies at the heart of WHO’s work would be protected from influence by any form of vested interest.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

State goes missing in healthcare in India; 70 percent is private

May 15, 2014–Z News

“New Delhi: More than 70 percent of healthcare in India is provided by corporate houses as a result of which poor people are not able to afford the high cost of medical care provided by private hospitals, health experts have said. Manoj Kumar Singh, senior pathologist at AIIMS said: ‘There are only 11 countries in the world which have lesser investment in healthcare than India. Every other country has more investment’.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

Antibiotic Resistance Sweeping Developing World

May 6, 2014–Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science

“By most standards, the increasing availability of life-saving antibiotics in the developing world is a good thing. But, around the globe, overuse of these drugs has created resistant strains of deadly bacteria — and they could be a greater threat in poorer nations than in richer ones, owing in part to a lack of regulation. Such concerns come amid a stark warning [last week] from the World Health Organization (WHO)…The world, it says, is poised to enter a ‘post-antibiotic’ era. And in some places, that era has already arrived… The problem [also] seems to be particularly acute in the emerging economies known as the ‘BRIC’ states: Brazil, Russia, India and China…Up to 95% of adults in India and Pakistan carry bacteria that are resistant to β-lactam antibiotics — which include carbapenems, considered to be antibiotics of ‘last resort’ — according to research by Timothy Walsh, a medical microbiologist at Cardiff University…By comparison, only 10% of adults in the Queens area of New York carry such bacteria.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

The Global Diabetes Epidemic

April 25, 2014–NY Times

“Twelve years ago, my husband and I packed up all of our belongings and moved to Trivandrum — a steamy, tropical town at the southern tip of India in Kerala. At the time, I was a medical student interested in studying stroke. For the next six months I dressed in a sari and walked to work on jungle roads. At the hospital, I immediately began seeing a steady stream of young patients affected by strokes, many of whom were so severely disabled that they were unable to work. I initially suspected the cause was tuberculosis or dengue fever — after all, this was the developing world, where infections have long been primary culprits for disease. But I soon learned that my hunch was wrong.

One of my first patients was a woman in her mid-30s who came in with a headache, vomiting and an unsteady gait. Her scan showed a brainstem stroke. Her blood sugars were very high. The underlying cause of her stroke was most likely untreated Type 2 diabetes. Here I was, halfway around the globe, in a vastly foreign culture, but I was looking at a disease — and the lifestyle that fostered it — that was startlingly familiar.”

Read the article in its entirety here.

World Immunisation Week: mobile app to remind parents of vaccine schedule

April 24, 2015–Down to Earth

As part of World Immunisation Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on delivering health information directly to people’s mobile phones and social media accounts to curb vaccine preventable deaths.

“Application of technology and software to increase coverage of immunisation is a new trend. During this year’s World Immunisation Week—April 24-30—WHO has urged people to keep themselves up to date about availability of vaccines and other related information.

In India, the app can be downloaded by searching for ACVIP (Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Immunization Practices) or IAP (Indian Academy of Pediatricians) Immunisation 2013 on Google Play. After installing it on mobile, its dashboard gives many options like recommended vaccines and immunisation table. If a user clicks on “vaccine reminder”, it asks the user to give details of date of birth of the child, name, mobile and email id. An SMS and email are sent on the day of scheduled vaccination for a particular vaccine. Unfortunately, at this point the app is only available in English.

‘Coverage for routine immunisation is 61 per cent in India. If we want to take it to better levels, then use of such technology is the most cost-effective intervention,’ said Panna Choudhury, paediatrician, formerly with Delhi government’s Lok Nayak hospital.

It is important to note that, as of 2013, approximately 62% of the Indian population used mobile phones. Of those, roughly one in three of India’s urban internet users have accessed a mobile phone application (an estimated 31% of the population reside in urban areas). Thus, while the number of individuals who have access to the technology is growing, there is still a shortfall in the national immunization rate for the time being.”

Read the article in its entirety here.