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Indian rural healthcare witnessed significant progress in last decade

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New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) Rural healthcare in India has seen remarkable progress in the last decade, with people living in remote areas getting better access to quality health services.

New Delhi, April 14 (IANS) Rural healthcare in India has witnessed remarkable progress in the last decade, with people living in remote areas getting better access to quality health services.

The healthcare coverage, which can be credited to the expansion of telemedicine and adoption of digital health solutions such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), together with the government’s National Digital Health Mission has led to reductions in maternal and child mortality rates, polio eradication, and most recently eliminated visceral leishmaniasis or Kala-azar.

Yet, gaps remain with a significant lack of skilled healthcare professionals, and technological advancement comparatively slow in the hinterlands.

“Over the last decade, India has made substantial progress in healthcare through technology and innovation. Telemedicine and digital health solutions have expanded access to remote areas. Innovations in medical devices and diagnostics have enhanced affordability and accuracy,” Himanshu Sikka, project director, SAMRIDH, told IANS.

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Himanshu noted that the integration of AI and ML, and the National Digital Health Mission “signify a transformative shift towards more accessible, efficient, and patient-centric healthcare.”

“Despite notable strides, persistent challenges like workforce shortages and technological gaps linger. Sustained investment in training, technology, and community collaboration is imperative for achieving universal health coverage and bridging the urban-rural healthcare gap by 2030,” Himanshu said.

One of the areas that SAMRIDH, a blended finance (BF) facility supported by USAID and implemented by IPE Global, works is for sickle cell screening. In remote areas of Odisha’s Phulbani, Kandhamal, it used drones to conduct over 400 sickle cell tests. The drones help in collecting samples, testing, and providing diagnoses, among others.

Boosting healthcare in rural areas is not only critical for the health results of the nation but also for the economy. It plays a pivotal role in fostering rural economic development.

Priyadarshi Mohapatra, Founder, CureBay, told IANS that in the last 10 years, rural areas in the country have seen “advancements in medical technology, robust health education programmes, and improved healthcare facilities.”

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These have collectively bolstered the quality of care across the nation, as well as led to reductions in maternal and child mortality rates.

“Promoting preventive practices, and accessible healthcare in rural areas significantly reduces the burden of diseases, aligning with India’s sustainable development goals,” she noted.

The healthcare startup ensures accessibility to quality healthcare in remote areas via its eClinics which are powered by an intelligent tech platform offering online consultations and a comprehensive range of services. CureBay has positively impacted over 1,86,000 patients in Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

Even with the commendable progress, there exists a “vast gap in healthcare access between urban and rural India,” Smriti Tandon, Co-founder, Online Chikitsa Mitra told IANS.

“As per NHM Rural Health Statistics 2021-22, despite a 51 per cent increase in doctors, there is still a significant shortfall, with a 3.1 per cent deficit of the total requirement,” she added, emphasising the need “to address the challenge”.

The rural health-tech start-up boasts of a robust network of over 500 e-Clinics within local medical stores in remote areas. These e-Clinics, with trained store facilitators and a user-friendly platform, connect rural patients to a national network of medical specialists via teleconsultations.

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–IANS

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Indian-American scientist discovers new biomarker for obsessive compulsive disorder

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New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) A team of researchers led by an Indian-American scientist Dr Sameer Sheth has identified a specific neural activity pattern for patients who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and have undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) for its treatment.

The team’s goal was to determine how low-frequency brain oscillations in the theta (4-8 Hertz) to alpha (8-12 Hertz) range, which have been shown in a substantial body of scientific literature to play an important role in cognitive processes, were altered in people with severe, treatment-resistant OCD.

To accomplish this, the team from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in the US used a novel feature of contemporary DBS devices: the ability to record brain activity in addition to providing stimulation.

Unlike most studies, which are done in lab conditions, this one was done in real-life situations.

Before DBS, predictable and periodic neural activity was seen and after its activation, symptomatic reactions were seen, because DBS helps the patients let go of their phobias and embedded responses, allowing them to behave more normally, the researchers noted in the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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“This neuro-psychological biomarker can serve as a better litmus test to check on the improvements in the lives of people having OCD and could be used for other debilitating conditions as well for they stem from similar neural patterns,” said Dr Sheth at Baylor College of Medicine.

OCD is a prevalent and debilitating mental health illness that affects approximately 2-3 per cent of the global population. In severe circumstances, patients spend a significant amount of time engaging in repetitive compulsions and dwell on intrusive ideas.

OCD has a significant impact on the health and quality of life of patients and careers. Approximately 20-40 per cent of people with severe OCD are resistant to traditional therapies.

Since the early 2000s, DBS therapy has been utilised to control neural activity in specific areas of the brain associated with OCD symptoms.

–IANS

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New biomarkers reveal if glaucoma patients are at high risk of losing eyesight

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New Delhi, July 13 (IANS) A team of researchers has discovered blood markers that may predict whether glaucoma patients are at a higher risk of continuing to lose eyesight after normal therapy.

Glaucoma (known as kala motia in India), affects nearly 11.2 million people aged 40 and above in India. It’s the third common cause of blindness in our country, according to experts.

The main factors for glaucoma are old age and high blood pressure. Treatments to lower the intraocular pressure in the eye are available but they are not foolproof.

Researchers from University College London (UCL) and Moorfields Eye Hospital in the UK investigated whether mitochondrial function, as evaluated in white blood cells, is lower in people with glaucoma and if there is any connection at all.

The subjects were studied on the efficiency of their blood cells using oxygen, the amount of eyesight lost over time, and the levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).

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NAD is a chemical in the body that helps cells produce energy and is derived from vitamin B3 in the food.

Firstly, the researchers observed that particular cells in the blood, known as peripheral blood mononuclear cells, use oxygen differently in persons with glaucoma.

Secondly, people with glaucoma have lower amounts of NAD in their blood cells, which means lower oxygen consumption in their body cells, according to the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

“White blood cell mitochondrial function and NAD levels, if introduced as a clinical test, would enable clinicians to predict which patients are at higher risk of continued vision loss, allowing them to be prioritised for more intensive monitoring and treatment,” said Senior author Professor David (Ted) Garway-Heath from UCL’s Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital.

If research proves that low mitochondrial function or NAD is a factor, then new treatments can be introduced, said authors.

The researchers are now running a major clinical research to see if high-dose vitamin B3 can improve mitochondrial function and minimize vision loss, opening up new avenues.

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–IANS

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WHO donates medical supplies worth $9 million to Malawi

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Lilongwe, July 13 (IANS) The World Health Organisation (WHO) has donated assorted medical supplies, including drugs worth $9 million , to the government of Malawi to support the country’s public hospitals.

When presenting the donation on Friday in Lilongwe, Neema Kimambo, the WHO country representative, expressed her organisation’s desire to see public hospitals in Malawi well-stocked and people have better access to healthcare services, reported Xinhua news agency.

Kimambo added that the WHO will continue to support the Malawian government by providing various resources to meet the needs of Malawi’s health system.

Malawian Minister of Health Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda hailed the donation, saying that the supplies will help address the shortage of medical supplies in the country’s public hospitals.

The WHO has been providing vital medicine and medical supplies to the Malawian government since 2022 through the country’s COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project.

–IANS

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Deaths from West Nile fever in Israel surge to 31

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Jerusalem, July 13 (IANS) With 12 new fatalities confirmed, Israel has recorded 31 deaths from West Nile fever since an outbreak in the country in early May, health authorities said.

The Health Ministry on Friday, in a statement, reported 49 new infection cases, bringing the country’s total to 405, close to the annual record high of 425 cases in the year 2000, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Ministry attributed the high morbidity to warmer and more humid weather in the region, which is favourable to mosquitoes, a host that transmits the virus from birds through bites to humans.

The Israeli news website Ynet reported that most of the infected are elderly, aged 70 years and above, while children were also diagnosed with the virus.

Most human infections show no to mild cold symptoms, but occasionally, some people develop severe illnesses affecting the central nervous system.

Earlier this week, Israel’s chief veterinary officer, Tamir Goshen, told the news website that 159 birds were found infected with the virus in the last two months, compared to only three infections among birds in 2023.

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–IANS

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Eating beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas may help you manage diabetes better

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New Delhi, July 12 (IANS) Finding it hard to manage your blood sugar levels? Pulses like beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas can help manage your diabetes, according to a new review of studies on Friday.

Pulses also have positive effects on important cardiovascular biomarkers, like low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), also known as good cholesterol, revealed the study.

The review, based on 30 articles, contributes to the body of evidence supporting the need for future dietary guidelines and additional research on increasing pulse consumption within optimal dietary patterns.

The most frequently assessed study outcomes included changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, haemoglobin A1c, waist circumference, and C-reactive protein or high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

The review, published in the journal Nutrients, points out the “potential role of pulses in maintaining health and preventing chronic disease”, said Taylor C. Wallace, Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at George Washington University, US.

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It also plays a crucial role in “enhancing long-term health, particularly among individuals with chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease”, Taylor added.

Further, the low-fat content and healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, along with essential micronutrients and bioactive compounds with antioxidant properties, further establish pulses as a nutritional powerhouse.

Pulses are also an excellent source of plant protein, rich in fibre, folate, and potassium. They also serve as a rich source of minerals like zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium, and are therefore vital in diets that prioritise plant-based sources of nutrients.

–IANS

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