TO DISCUSS challenges associated with and to evolve strategies for improving health of the urban poor, a three-day Bhopal Seminar 2007 on `Contemporary Issues in Population and Health’ began at the Swaraj Bhavan here on Wednesday.
Organised jointly by Shyam Institute, State Public Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh and Urban Health Resource Centre, the symposium aims at brainstorming on issues related to health of urban poor in light of the general misconception that urban poor lived in better conditions as compared to their rural counterparts.
State Public Health and Family Welfare Department Director Dr Yogiraj Sharma inaugurated the seminar. Sharing initiatives of the Government of Madhya Pradesh in improving health of the urban poor in the State, he said that urban health programmes had been operational in Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur since 2002.
The Government has recently initiated similar programmes in Ujjain, Satna, Gwalior, Ratlam and Sagar. The topic on the seminar’s first day was urban health. Most of the speakers highlighted that a large section of cities comprising about 100 million people lived in slums that were characterised by overcrowding, lack of sanitation, water supply and other basic services. Subsequently, slum dwellers suffered from poor health conditions.
Bhopal District Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) Dr Brahma Swaroop Ohri said a large number of slums were not official and therefore remained outside the purview of services because of their illegal nature.
He said it was necessary to bring these slums under service coverage for any significant improvements in health of the urban poor.
Giving an overview of the situation of urban poverty in Madhya Pradesh, Urban Health Resource Centre Executive Director Dr Siddharth Agarwal said 38.4 per cent of the State’s urban population or 6 million persons lived in slums. The urban poverty rate in Madhya Pradesh was second highest in India next only to Orissa.
One in eight children born in urban slum communities of the State do not live up to the age of 5, Dr Agrawal pointed out. The child death rate among the urban poor in the State is nearly equal to that in rural areas and is three times higher than the urban rich.
Over 75 per cent of mothers in urban slum communities deliver at home in the absence of medical assistance, Dr Agrawal stated. Similarly, nearly 80 per cent of children do not receive all the recommended vaccinations.
District Immunisation Officer, Indore Dr Mukesh Bachawat said it was important to improve coordination between various agencies such as health, municipalities, ICDS, urban development that were involved in slum development activities for greater impact on the lives of the urban poor.
Urban RCH officer in Indore Dr Gagan Gupta said his department joined hands with the NGOs for expanding immunisation coverage in slums of Indore. This resulted in a rapid and cost effective improvement in immunization coverage.
A book, ‘Population Stabilisation in M.P’’ was also released on the occasion.