New Delhi: The Iodine Man of India, Dr Chandrakant Pandav, joined the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s 12-hour telethon – Lakshya – Sampoorn Swasthya Ka. Dr. Pandav is a Padma Shri recipient and the Founding Member of the International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders. He has been instrumental in eliminating goitre from India.
Speaking with the panelists, Dr. Pandav narrated the story of India’s fight against iodine deficiency. It all started in 1948, when his mentor, Dr. Vulimiri Ramalingaswami, Indian nutrition scientist, visited Oxford University, where he found that the researchers were unable to find the source of goitre.
I have seen pumpkin-sized goitres in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and other places. So, the researchers told Dr. Ramalingaswami to carry the journey forward of finding the cause in India, Dr. Pandav said.
In 1951, Dr. Ramalingaswami established the cause of goitre as an iodine deficiency in the body. It is an enlargement of the thyroid that develops as a result of iodine deficiency or inflammation of the thyroid gland).
Following this, Dr. Ramalingaswami, along with his team, launched the famous “Kangra Valley Experiment” in Himachal Pradesh. It was an extensive community-based study done on endemic goitre and cretinism. Based on the results of the experiment, it was decided that salt in India would be fortified with potassium iodate.
Dr. Pandav said it was the world’s largest study that was continued for more than a decade, and nearly one lakh children were surveyed for the study.
He further explained how the study was divided into three zones: A, B, and C. The salt distributed to zones A and C was fortified with potassium iodide and iodate, respectively, while zone B was supplied with unfortified salt.
Within five years of the experiment, the goitre prevalence in India dropped from 42 per cent to 21 per cent. In the next five years, it came down to 10 per cent, Dr. Pandav said. The areas that did not receive iodised salt remained the same.
On the basis of this research, the government of India had launched the “National Goitre Control Program” in 1962.
Dr. Pandav’s journey with the study on iodine deficiency started in 1978 when he was doing his Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. He had taken it as his thesis topic. Later, he went on to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).
Dr. Pandav worked in various states, including Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Kerala, to study the consequences/effects of iodine deficiency, such as mental retardation, brain damage, etc. He documented the findings and presented them to the former Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, in 1984.
Dr. Pandav had suggested to the Prime Minister to start a “Universal Iodisation Program” (USI) and mandate the iodisation of the salt used for human and animal consumption. The USI’s aim was to ensure adequate iodine nutrition and mitigate the irreversible changes.
Today, India’s 93 per cent population is consuming iodised salt, Dr. Pandav informed.
Speaking about his mentor, Dr. Ramalingaswami, Dr. Pandav said,
My mentors have had a huge influence on my journey to mitigate Goitre from India. I am eternally grateful to them.
Dr. Pandav’s devotion and long years of exemplary service made the elimination of iodine deficiency disorders possible in India and South Asia.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can be