NEW DELHI: Opening a new avenue for synergy, Aman Ki Asha (AKA) — a joint peace initiative between the Times of India and the Jang group of Pakistan — moved to a higher level of cooperation with a one-day meeting in which health committees of doctors, ministry officials and representatives of pharmaceutical companies resolved to collaborate on certain core issues facing the two countries.

The convention, organized with the support of Confederation of Indian Industries, agreed to work on ensuring affordable medicines, tackling childhood obesity, addressing hepatitis, apart from collaborating
on issues of reproductive health, tobacco use and youth fertility.

The joint declaration summed up the spirit of the initiative by stressing on the need to ensure that populations of both countries get an opportunity to attain the highest-possible level of health. The declaration also pointed to the collaboration required to address inequities in health and disability among poor and marginalized populations, and called upon governments to facilitate trade in health to promote access to quality, affordable healthcare.
The health meet was the second of a series of sectoral interactions organized to enable lasting peace between the two nations. A similar event was held earlier in the year for the IT sector.

India’s top cardiac surgeon Dr Naresh Trehan led the Indian delegation that also included president of the Public Health Foundation of India K Srinath Reddy. Paediatrician Dr Neelam Mohan, also a convener of AKA’s healthcare initiatives, was part of the committee.

The Pakistani delegation was led by Dr Sania Nishtar, president Heartfile, and included Zeba Ayesha Sathar, country director of the Population Council of Pakistan, Yasmeen Sabeeh Qazi of Packard Foundation and Faiz Kidwai, chairman of Rotary Humanity Trust.

One of India’s biggest challenges is the low medical insurance cover, said Dr Naresh Trehan, adding that this was a problem area for Pakistan as well. Only 7% of India’s workforce is in the organized sector. The remaining 93% are cultivators, agricultural labourers and artisans who typically do not have regular income.

Dr Trehan also pointed out how paying for medical care was pushing many Indians below the poverty line. Most of the medical expense of an average Indian is paid from his own pocket, he said. According to a recent analysis, private expenditure on health in India is close to 78% compared to 53% in Sri Lanka and 61% in China. Only Pakistan is worse off with private expenditure being 82.5%.

Admitting that India’s private sector providing medical care had done a lot better than Pakistan’s, Dr Nishtar spoke about of the existence of the new common threat — non-communicable diseases(NCDs). She said population explosion could increase the number of people suffering from NCDs and the two countries will be in focus during the UN general assembly on NCDs this September.

The WHO global status report on NCDs said heart disease, stroke and diabetes cost the Indian economy $9 billion in 2005. An estimated 1.4 million to two million people experienced "catastrophic" spending in 2004 with 6-8 lakh Indians ending up being impoverished by the cost of caring for cardiovascular disease and cancer alone. The leading cause of deaths in India among NCDs is due to cardiovascular disease (29.89 lakh). Diabetes accounted for 1.75 lakh deaths, cancer five lakh and respiratory diseases 6.74 lakh deaths.

Source: Times of India
Healing touch: Indian, Pak docs join hands on key issues
TNN, Aug 1, 2011


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