Kerala floods leave more than 300 dead and many more stranded

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine No Comments

Vigilance and precautions are the need of the hour to prevent the aftermath of illnesses that follow floods

New Delhi, 20 August 2018: With over 250% more rain than normal between 8th and 15th August 2018, the state of Kerala is battling the worst floods in its history. More than 300 people have lost their lives and many more have been left stranded. Across the state, relief teams are running against time to ensure food and medicines reach those in need. Many have pitched in to the rescue efforts through their presence well as monetary contributions.

Flood waters not only take a toll on human life, but also cause an aftermath of illnesses. The health effects of floods are both immediate and long term. One of the most pertinent problems of flooding is the water-borne and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, leptospirosis, dysentery, typhoid, and cholera. While the government and health care agencies do put in place certain mechanisms to tackle these, precautions are of utmost importance.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “The outbreak of infectious diseases and their transmission can occur within days, weeks or even months after the onset of floods. One of the most common health risks during and after flooding is the contamination of water sources. Standing water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes, thus increasing the chances of vector-borne diseases. One infection that can take on an epidemic form after flooding is leptospirosis. Flooding helps in facilitating the spread of the organism due to increase in the number of rodents. These shed large amounts of leptospires in their urine which mixes with the flooded water. Apart from this, receding waters also bring back mosquitoes with them. Some other devastating after effects of floods include drowning, injuries due to falling inside manholes, and electrocution from submerged and fallen power lines or live wires which can electrically charge the standing water.”

While developed countries have adequate coping mechanisms in place, the most affected are the low-income countries. Some reasons for this include large population, existing health conditions, and lack of proper health infrastructure.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “It is important to have certain coping mechanisms in place, both at the governmental and individual levels, to prevent diseases from spreading. At the governmental level, it is important to improve the level of primary health care delivery.  Healthcare workers should be trained appropriately such that they can identify and assess any risk factors and take immediate action. There should also be a system in place to educate people on hygiene and hand washing techniques. The government should also ensure that adequate quantity of safe water, good sanitation facilities, and appropriate shelters are provided to the victims to keep them safe from diseases.”

Some tips from HCFI to cope during floods at an individual level.

  • Do not walk or wade through floodwater because it contains sewage and debris. This is more so in the case of those who are vulnerable to infections such as people living with diabetes, children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
  • Do not expose broken skin or any wounds to floodwater to avoid the risk of getting infected. Additionally, clean these wounds with clean water and get a dressing done.
  • It is imperative to wash your hands with soap and water if you happen to come into contact with damaged material, floodwater or mud; or after going to the washroom. Do not touch food with dirty hands.
  • Dispose of any food material, medicines and other edibles if they have come into contact with floodwater. Using these can make you susceptible to infections.
  • If you have tinned food, make sure to wash the tin and sanitize it in a bleach solution. Consume the contents at the earliest.
  • Check with the local authority about any possible contamination of local water supply. Make sure to boil water before consumption.
  • Use mosquito repellants and nets abundantly to avoid catching vector-borne diseases. Do not throw garbage on the street as this can attract rodents.

FSSAI to limit trans fats in edible vegetable oils and fats to 2% by weight in a phased manner

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine No Comments

The decision comes after HCFI’s request for banning use of trans fats in restaurants and grocery items

New Delhi, 19 August 2018: In a much-welcome move, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oil and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022.

The decision comes in view of a request by HCFI to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Law and Justice on 21st June 2018.

As part of the letter, HCFI had appealed for immediate steps and necessary directions for banning the use of trans fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, and grocery items in India. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned artificial trans fats from American restaurants and grocery store food items. The latter gave time till 18th June 2018 to all companies in the USA for eliminating trans fats.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Trans fats have been a staple in the tastiest junk foods for more than 100 years. They are chemically made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated oil is also trans-fat). Trans fats increases the shelf life of packaged foods, and restaurants like to use it as oil for deep frying because it doesn’t need to be changed as often as other oils. The FDA’s move should be replicated in India as well. The health effects of trans fats are not unknown but consumption continues. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fatsandalsolower protective HDL. Apart from this, they rev up inflammation and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.”

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This changes the chemical structure of the oil, turning it from a liquid into a solid. The process involves high pressure, hydrogen gas, and a metal catalyst – and the end-product is highly unsuitable for human consumption.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Foods rich in trans fats tend to be high in added sugar and calories. Over time, these can pave way for weight gain and even Type 2 diabetes, not to mention heart problems. It is time to take a strong stand against their use in eateries outside considering the fact that many people eat in restaurants regularly in today’s day and age.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Choose foods lower in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
  • Replace saturated and trans fats in their diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Some sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.
  • Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.
  • Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain omega–3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.
  • Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full–fat dairy products, like whole milk.
  • Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.

A relevant portion of the letter dated 1 August 2018:

Please refer to grievance dated 26.06.2018 with registration no. PMOPG/D/2018/0229751 regarding banning use of trans-fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, grocery items in India. In this regard, it is informed that the Food Safety and Standards (Food products Standard and Product Additives) Regulations, 2011, prescribe that the trans-fat shall not be more than 5% by weight in some types of vegetable fats. Further, the FSSAI is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oils and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022. The other concerns regarding creating awareness among the public have been noted.”

Decent living standards for every Indian child still a far cry in India

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine No Comments

About 3000 children die of malnutrition every year

New Delhi, 17 August 2018: Marking the 72nd Independence Day of India on 15th August 2018, the Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society organized an event focusing on issues faced by street children. Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) was the chief guest at the event, which was presided over by renowned social activist and Founder of Prayas, Mr Amod K Kanth. Some of the issues highlighted at the event include child sexual abuse, nutrition, and other health problems in children.

Millions of Indian children are forced to live in hazardous conditions on India’s streets due to compulsions such as poverty and hunger. This number continues to increase despite the fact that India, along with 192 UN member states, had committed to achieve sustainable development by 2030, which entitles every child to a decent living standard. Over 59 million children continue to have no access to school, with an estimated 3,000 children dying every year due to malnutrition.

Speaking at the event, Dr K K Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “The number of children on the streets and homeless is alarmingly high in the country. The problems they face on a daily basis exacerbate their situation further. From lack of food to sexual exploitation, there is no dearth of issues for them. Child sexual abuse, evident or suspect, is common and preventable and is often done by a known person. It is an acute medico legal emergency. Sustainable Development Goals addressing children such as ‘No Poverty’, ‘Ending Hunger’ and ‘Ensuring Healthy Lives’ can be met only when government and private bodies work in tandem to build strong frameworks and policies and implement them.”

Children on the streets mostly work as day laborers at construction sites or restaurants. Across cities, they are physically abused and made to work more than seven hours a day and beaten while at work.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees right to life with dignity to one and all, including children. There is a need to revisit this act and ensure that it is not being denied to the homeless children and those in the lower economic strata of the society. Their health concerns must also be addressed. For instance, girls who attain puberty should be given weekly gurchana (iron and protein). Children need adequate intake of nutrients and vaccination cover to avoid at least preventable diseases. The safety and health of children is a responsibility that cannot be overlooked.”

Ensuring basic nutrition in children is a topic that will be addressed at the 25th MTNL Perfect Health Mela 2018 to be held in October this year.

Some tips from HCFI

There are four major food groups that should form a part of a child’s diet plan.

  • Bread, rice, potatoes, and other starchy foods. This forms the largest portion of the diet and provides calories for energy and carbohydrates that are converted to sugars which provide energy.
  • Milk and dairy foods – Vital sources of fats and simple sugars like lactose as well as minerals like Calcium
  • Fruit and vegetables – Vital sources of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and roughage for better digestive health
  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein – These form the building blocks of the body and help in numerous body and enzyme functions.

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