Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today announced a series of focused government campaigns centred on major communicable and non-communicable diseases. These will involve NGOs, religious organisations, educational institutions, medical professionals of the government and private sectors, clubs and related social forums as means to developing a social movement over health.“A specific day in a year will be dedicated to awareness building on a particular disease. For instance, November 7 will be observed as National Cancer Awareness Day, apart from February 4 which is already marked as World Cancer Day. We will use such occasions to communicate with citizens on how to deal with that disease at the prevention and curative levels, the importance of timely check-ups and other matters,” the Minister announced. The government also plans marking special days for diabetes, anaemia, hypertension, blindness, deafness, malnutrition, obesity, mental conditions and issues related to infant and maternal mortality.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event, “Walk away from heart attack”, to mark “World Heart Day” which falls on Monday, September 29, the Minister said social mobilisation is essential to making public health work. It is based on the axiom “Prevention is better than cure”. He lauded the initiative and thanked the organisers –Delhi Medical Association, Rotary Club (District 3010), Saket City Hospital, New Delhi Municipal Committee, Resident Welfare Association of East Delhi, United RWA Joint Action and some city schools. Dr Ganesh Mani, reputed cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon who heads DMA’s World Heart Day initiative, Dr Anil Goel, President of DMA, Dr Harish Gupta and Dr K.K.Aggarwal, past Presidents of DMA, Dr P.K.Sharma, Medical Officer in charge of NDMC, Mr O.P.Mishra, Director (Projects) of NDMC, Mr Sanjay Khanna, Governor of Rotary Club (District 3010), Mr Sandeep Kapoor, Convenor of RWA, East Delhi, and Mr Atul Goel, Convenor of URJA were among the organisers present. He observed, “Every human body is a stakeholder in the country’s health system. If each body can be kept healthy through balanced diet, avoidance of smoking, drinking and substance abuse, and, put through at least half an hour’s exercise and walk each day, then the entire disease burden of the country would drop dramatically and the Health Ministry’s budget will be optimally utilised.”
After participating in the walk, held in the inner circle of Connaught Place, Dr Harsh Vardhan appealed to all doctors, health workers and NGO activists to work harder to conscientise people on the dangers of cardiovascular diseases –the single biggest cause of premature death. “Heart disease and strokes are becoming more common in our society than before. I see younger and younger people falling victim to this killer. There is widespread ignorance of the simple fact that it is preventable,” he said. Dr Harsh Vardhan also advised NGOs to dedicate some of their energies to training neighbourhood people with knowledge in how to administer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). He pointed out, “Half the number of fatalities from heart attack is caused by delayed transportation to hospital, yet many of these deaths can be avoided by timely CPR. For this I urge DMA, the RWAs and like-minded groups to conduct camps to train people in such techniques.” Therefore, social mobilisation can be an all-embracing concept. “The government can lay out hospitals but it would never be possible for it to do enough without the help of developing health resources among common people in awareness generation for disease prevention as well as skills in first aid,” he remarked.
World Heart Day was conceptualised to inform people around the world of the danger of heart disease and stroke. The World Heart Federation, in collaboration with World Health Organisation, uses the occasion to spread the message that at least 80 percent of premature deaths from this quarter can be avoided if the main risk factors –tobacco, unhealthy diet and the sedentary lifestyle – are abandoned. Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “The government has already launched an offensive against smoking by taxing tobacco products. The next target is fast foods in school and office canteens which leave citizens with no option but gulp fatty and unhealthy foods. The ill effects of alcohol consumption would also be highlighted.” Spiritual pursuits like meditation or group sessions with philosophers also help avoid heart conditions. Dr Harsh Vardhan mentioned in this context the usefulness of Yoga as preventive medicine for cardiovascular conditions. “A mind at peace is like a fort against heart conditions,” he added.