Social mobilization is going to be an important determinant in removing a 'community famine' from India that is vastly ignored by many who can make a difference in improving the lives of millions of Indians who go hungry each day. Delivering the Krishnan Ang TANKER Foundation Endowment Lecture on Equity and the future of healthcare in India in Chennai on the eve of India's 63rd Republic day celebration, Dr. Binayak Sen, pediatrician, renowned public health doctor and human rights activist said, without fulfilling the needs of millions of Indians who go without food and basic healthcare, India cannot claim to have achieved true freedom.
Adult undernutrition very simply happens, "when you are hungry, and you consistently don't get anything to eat," Dr. Sen said. Adult malnutrition can be measured by Body Mass Index (BMI) and a BMI below 18.5 indicates chronic undernutrition. Quoting statistics Dr. Sen showed how 37% of adult Indians, 50% of adults belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and 60% of adult Indians belonging to the Scheduled castes have a BMI below 18.5, which makes them chronically undernourished. Large sections of the Indian population are caught up in the middle of an enormous famine, while only child malnutrition which the Prime Minister recently labeled 'a national shame' has come under the spotlight.
AdvertisementA community famine of such proportions that has been allowed to be stable for so long is a chronic phenomenon and can only be eliminated by the collective will of every responsible citizen, Dr. Sen observed. While the Food Security Bill is still pending before the Parliament, the Planning Commission's miscalculated statement that 1800 calories/day are enough for an adult (2,400/day is a healthy requirement) is a retrograde step which could keep millions still undernourished.
Talking on healthcare in India, Dr. Sen said it was a social obligation to ensure that nobody is denied of healthcare because of their inability to pay the bills. The current proposal to increase GDP spending in India for healthcare to 2.5% is a major, positive level of development for healthcare in India. Dr. Sen said India should move towards making available 'cashless' healthcare with the money coming from tax structures. Health services offered in countries like Brazil, Canada and Thailand are worth emulating he said, but ultimately the health programs we devise should be our very own suited to the Indian setting.
The 19th TANKER (TamilNadu Kidney Research Foundation) Annual Charity and Awards Nite 2012 hosting Dr. Binayak Sen's lecture was a platform to recognize and appreciate the efforts of professionals working tirelessly to improve the lives of people, especially from the underprivileged sections of society, living with kidney diseases.
Dr. Georgi Abraham, Founder Trustee of TANKER foundation welcomed the gathering and thanked them for their support and contribution towards helping the underprivileged battle kidney disease. Chief Guest of the evening Mr. Mike Nithavriyanakis, British deputy High Commissioner presented awards for outstanding research, love for service, and awareness to meritorious health professionals. The 'For the Sake of Honor' Award was presented to Dr. Binayak Sen for his outstanding work among tribals in Chhattisgarh.