Public health is as essential to a nation's growth and prosperity but it has never received the kind of importance that 'law and order' does in budgetary allocation and political discourse. We don't know how long it will take time to change the order of things - meanwhile it is a pity that a man like Yash Chopra who was looking forward to a peaceful retirement after his last film, was felled by all things by a mosquito bite.
WHILE ONE expresses condolences at the passing of Bollywood icon, Yash Chopra
, one can only feel sad that of all things, he had to succumb to Dengue fever, which at the end of the day is preventable and speaks much of the sanitary conditions of the city he lived in. Apparently, the Mumbai
Municipal Corporation (BMC) had approached these studios to allow fumigation in the past, but was declined permission, ostensibly to avoid the smell and disturbances to shooting schedules. It seems that the corporation drive has resumed again after Chopra’s death alerted people about dengue, and it seems that we need markers like this for the somnambulism to life in our society and in our governance structures.
Dengue, although it is a major headline grabbing disease every year in India
is not a notifiable disease and therefore the data available in the public domain is mostly confined to the numbers of cases referred to the various government hospitals. In Mumbai though, a city which aspires to be compared to Shanghai, the current mosquito breeding season has thus so far seen 4 documented deaths, including that of Yash Chopra and about 187 cases of dengue are registered in various hospitals of the city. The municipal corporation is therefore not amused and has asked to verify the clinical records at the Leelavati Hospital, where the late Yash Chopra was admitted for treatment. The Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has also advised that every dengue death that comes to notice should be audited. Be that it may, as long as India’s public health system stays the way it is, it will be the one great equalizer…. Some public health hazards know no distinction between rich and poor, prnce and pauper.
For historical as well as political reasons, the fact has never been faced that budgetary allocation for improvement in the public health care system in India has been focused largely on expensive treatment services, and public health services have been generally ignored. This is mirrored in a near total lack of modern public health regulatory mechanisms that are actually enforced and of systematic planning and delivery of these services. The fact that in Mumbai, the city corporation backed off from their fumigating work when the various film studios resisted instead of digging in their heels and insisting on carrying out preventive measures for the greater public good speaks of the kind of enforcement authority that the public health officials in the city had.
Although India has a strong medical fraternity, the public health practitioners and health planners lack teeth when it comes to the other movers and shakers. There is strong capacity for dealing with outbreaks when they occur, but not to prevent them from occurring. Notable competence also exists for conducting exhaustive campaigns, but not for sustaining these gains on an ongoing basis after the campaign. This is illustrated by the near eradication of malaria through highly organized efforts in the 1950s, and its resurgence when attention shifted to other priorities such as family planning (incidentally, no longer a priority).
Public health is as essential to a nation’s growth and prosperity but it has never received the kind of importance that “law and order” gets in budgetary allocation and political decisions. We don’t know how long it will take time to change the order of things – meanwhile it is a pity that a man like Yash Chopra who was looking forward to a peaceful retirement after his last film, was felled by all things by a mosquito bite.