Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dream of New India - A Healthy India !!!

I remember as a child, watching Maa watering plants. Specially the Money Plant which was considered good omen  for the house. She ensured right amount of water and sunlight for all the plants in the house. As the seedlings grew taller with full grown leaves and flowers, she would smile and look satisfied. Today, I could not help but draw a parallel between kids of our nation and those seedlings. Both are valuable assets for a rich future of our country and a healthy next generation will ensure a robust nation, ready to take on any challenges globally. 

The biggest advantage of our country lies in the fact that we are full of natural resources and strategically covered by mountains, water and desert. And these ensure that we as a nation have a balanced climate which is conducive to make us stronger and acclimatize to any weather conditions. However despite being a nation that has everything going for, it is ironical that India is ranked at a lower 119th out of 190 States by World Health Organization (WHO) in ranking of Health systems. As a nation, we still need to take gigantic steps towards that dream of being one of the healthiest globally from this current scenario.

One of the most critical challenges that our country faces today is death of a child within few years of birth. WHO reports that 5 out of 1000 kids in India have probability to die below 5 years. This is largely due to malnutrition and environment in which they grow. A recent project “Help a Child Reach 5” undertaken by Lifebuoy- Hindustan Lever Limited has  brought in light a simple fact that kids in India up to age 5 die because of improper hand washing, leading to diahorrea and jaundice. This highlights one of the most crucial points of availability – Water, one of the basic elements of nature and also a critical ingredient for our survival. 
Till date drinking water is still not available properly in many places in our country and even if it is available water not always in cleanest form. While it is primary duty of Government to ensure clean water however as society we can ensure small and easy steps taken to protect our future our kids.  

a)  We should start developing good habits in our children both at home and school, the importance of washing hands properly before meal and not to drink water from anywhere.
b   School Management particularly government/municipality schools should ensure proper drinking water facilities inside school campuses for kids.
c)   NGOs should engage in more and more Awareness Campaign particularly in rural areas about drinking water, especially through techniques like boiling. Packaged Drinking Water Manufacturers can run this as CSR Project whereby small packets of water are available in primary level municipal/govt. schools. Corporate may make this available at subsidized cost to Govt and have state-level tie-ups. Also Corporate should look to support NGO’s in building more deep tube wells specially in villages so that clean water is available to kids from very childhood.

Parents and Teachers bear a great social responsibility in building Good Habits in kids at an early stage so that these qualities become so deeply inculcated in them that generations after them too imbibe the same and it works like a chain reaction. These basic steps will ensure prevention of dangerous bacteria, viruses born out of water from entering into the human system and affecting immunity.

It is ironical that India whose GDP growth is largely driven by agricultural economy is also one of the highest when it comes to malnutrition among children. Appropriate Food Intake along with proper Nutrition is a must for an Immune India. While Public Distribution System in India is a matter of grave concern, to begin with following steps can be taken to do some immediate improvement in the short term:

a)    Mid-day Meal Schemes (more popularly known as Anganwadi) that run in India, in government and government –aided schools should be implemented 100% across all states and there should be regulatory system in every Block/Taluka, which should include surprise Audits, to ensure strict monitoring and implementation of the same. It is equally important that government exercises due caution when it comes to selection of vendors who supplies raw materials for food for kids and personally check the environment where food is prepared as often disturbing news of

b)   State Govt. should further look at ensuring at 1 glass of Milk and egg per day under Breakfast Scheme in Govt. and Govt. aided schools for Kids from 3 – 7 years particularly in Rural and Semi-Urban area. This will also have double advantage of incentivizing kids to come to school and study. Amul being one of the largest distributors of Processed Milk can be entered into tie-up with Government for supplying subsidized Milk at Co-operative and Ration Stores.

While the kids from well to do families may have access to Milk and egg, but the tendency of same kids to eat Junk Foods instead of nutritious food is not helping matters either. Burgers/Chips/Colas have replaced the usual Bread - Butter and Fruits. The availability of nutritious food like eggs, milk, fruits, and pulses is very important as right amount of vitamin, protein, and calcium goes a long way in building healthy body.

Also the fact that today’s kids are more attached to their gazettes is not helping the matters either, which means there is less of physical activity/sports which is again important part to build fitness among kids.

a)    Physical Education should be compulsory part of curriculum in schools until Class 5 and compulsory Grades should be applicable. In many occasions even if the Kids are willing to play, lack of infrastructure near their home prevents them from doing so.

b)  Corporate who runs school as part of CSR activity should look at building advance infrastructure like football/cricket ground/swimming pool/Indoor games in their school premises itself to encourage kids to take up sporting activity.At least a Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Saina Nehiwal has ensured that sports can  considered as a career in small town as much it is done in big cities.

Environment and Collusion in Food Quality is another important aspect when it comes to immunity. Everybody in the world can tell how important it is to live in pollution free environment and breathe under clean sky. However easier said than done in a country which is one of the fastest growing economies under the carpet of infrastructure and industrialization.

One of the Mantras one hears is Go Green – which essentially means not only to work towards pollution free environment but also to preserve natural resources be it paper or electricity. While it is a still largely an urban concept, it is heartening to see certain corporate houses taking these initiatives to villages by introducing Solar Lantern.

As a concept Go- Green is fantastic and in fact should be promoted as a culture in each child. Just like how much we like our children to grow into a strong individual, it would be fantastic if our children too learn small habits like switching lights when not on use, do not waste papers, or even grow a plant in the window of their room.

Environment not only in our houses but also public infrastructure needs attention. Lack of proper garbage system, often results in accumulation of garbage in roadside resulting in spreading of harmful diseases like malaria. Proper Fines should be implemented in Societies/Houses who dump garbage on roadside. Municipality Corporation has to implement this and they can appoint volunteers or take help of Scouts in neighborhood schools to ensure a clean city. Government should allocate more funds towards infrastructure of Public Toilets, built in Roads/Stations so that people do not use Roadside. Our kids grow these environment and all these little aspects that adds harm to our kids if not taken proper care of.

If we have intent, we can deliver. Eradication of Polio in our Country along with Use of Contraceptives (Mala-D) to curb population is examples of successful campaign of Public awareness. Similar Campaigns are much required for very important Health Issues like Breast Feeding, Compulsory Vaccinations of Kids, and Usage of Sanitary Napkins among adolescent girls. Government has to have large scale social campaigns and rope in Popular Brand Ambassadors/icons for each of these issues so that the people follow the same.

To build a strong healthy immune nation – our government, society and we as individuals have to work with each other and parallel to each other to make it happen. While government has managed to increase a 7% towards health sector from last time, it is still not even 5% of our GDP. However important is proper allocation of funds given that India also enjoys funding from UN and other international bodies towards health. The social structures like School, Hospitals, and Municipality have to play a very critical role in development of our kids. And at building individual habits will lie solely on the shoulders of parents who will have to act as role model and ensure along with all these, kids get a loving environment to grow. I hope to wake up one day to an India where no kid has to every sleep hungry, where every kid is smiling and suddenly we will realize we have found heaven on this earth itself.

This blog is part of "An Immune India" contest hosted by Indiblogger and Dabur. To have a healthy body please visit Images used are taken from Google Images.

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