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Communicable diseases a major health challenge: Azad

health and fitness Updated: Dec 21, 2011 20:25 IST
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Despite noteworthy success in controlling communicable diseases, they still pose a major public health challenge in India, Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Wednesday.

"Communicable diseases pose a major public health challenge for India. The country is vulnerable to emerging and re-emerging diseases because of the existing environmental, socio-economic and demographic situation," Azad told a meeting of the Consultative Committee of Parliament attached to his ministry.

The minister, however, said that "noteworthy" success had been made to control communicable diseases during the 11th Five Year Plan and more measures have been identified for the 12th Plan.

"The 12th Five Year Plan aims to address several public health challenges, such as ensuring primary health care to all, strengthening of health care infrastructure, increasing public health workforce, strengthening disease surveillance and response systems, formulation of appropriate public health laws and increasing public health allocation," he said.

Several members at the meeting expressed serious concerns over the increase in Japanese Encephalitis cases.

According to ministry figures, 5,149 acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) cases and 677 deaths were reported across India in 2010. Of these, there were 565 cases and 110 deaths due to Japanese encephalitis in 11 states.

The members also suggested several preventive programmes and a coordinated approach to tackle communicable diseases. Awareness campaigns on Doordarshan and All India Radio were also suggested along with allocation of funds for local health 'melas'.

Azad also informed that his ministry would soon finalise 30-minute slots on regional Doordarshan and radio channels to "ensure awareness about the available health programmes in local languages round the year".

According to him, the prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) is about 266 cases and 23 deaths per lakh people annually.

About 1.5 million cases of malaria with 30,000 deaths annually are reported. About 40 million persons are infected with filaria, one-third of global cases, live in India and about 129 million are at risk of 'kala-azar' (leishmaniasis) in 52 endemic districts mostly in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Health ministry figures also show that nearly 1,26,800 new cases of leprosy were reported in 2010 which is nearly half of global numbers, and more than 300 million episodes of acute diarrhoea occur every year in India in children below 5 years of age.