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Vaccines Prevent Disease, Disability And Deaths: Dr Roderico H. Ofrin, WHO Representative to India

On the launch of NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India season 10, Dr Roderico H. Ofrin from WHO spoke about self-care, preventing Diarrhoea deaths and immunisation

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Vaccines Prevent Disease, Disability And Deaths: Dr Roderico H. Ofrin, WHO Representative to India
Vaccines are the most economically beneficial public health intervention: Dr Roderico Ofrin

New Delhi: For the past four years, the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign has been working towards building a Swasth (healthy) India, leaving no one behind. This was preceded by a five-year long advocacy for a Swachh (clean) India. Continuing the conversation on the goal of health for all, on October 2, the season 10 of the Banega Swasth India campaign was launched in the presence of Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. Dr Roderico H. Ofrin, World Health Organisation Representative to India, lent his support to the campaign and talked about the role of self-care in achieving the Right to Health.

Sharing the WHO’s definition of self-care, Dr Ofrin said,

It is the ability of individuals, their families, communities to promote their own health, prevent diseases, maintain health, maybe to access a health service and cope with illnesses or disabilities with or without the support of a health worker. It is very much linked to the health literacy of people.

Well, what does health literacy mean? Dr Ofrin explained,

It is how you understand health and symptoms, how willing are you to reach out for health services. It recognises individuals as active agents in managing their own healthcare and that in itself is the right to health. Once a person embodies that health is their right then self-care comes in. It is a self-motivated way for health promotion, and disease prevention, rather than just disease curing, sometimes self-medication when it is simple, but also learning when to access higher health services, when something is more complicated. However, it doesn’t replace the healthcare system.

Also Read: A Day Will Come When There Will Be No Petrol And Diesel Pumps: Nitin Gadkari 

WHO’s 7-Point Plan For The Prevention And Early Treatment Of Diarrhoea

Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under-five years of age. Each year Diarrhoea kills around 5.25 lakh children under five, states WHO fact sheet. But Diarrhoea is both preventable and treatable. Dr Ofrin added, “Diarrhoea is caused by several different types of diseases and WHO’s 7-point plan looks at addressing a very basic disease symptom. It is a combination of treatment package complemented by prevention package.”

The five key interventions include:

  • Rotavirus and measles vaccination, which are known to cost 40 percent of hospital admissions, especially for children under-five
  • Promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation
  • Promotion of handwashing with soap
  • Improved supply, storage and treatment of safe water
  • Community-wide sanitation promotion

The treatment package involves:

  • ORS or Oral Rehydration Salts therapy in case of Diarrhoea. It is for the rehydration of the body as during Diarrhoea, the patient tends to lose water
  • Zinc treatment – It’s a key micronutrient that needs to be supplemented and has proven to really reduce the severity and duration of episodes of Diarrhoea

Further talking about the potential health gains in case of increased access to safely managed drinking-water services, Dr Ofrin lauded the Jal Jeevan Mission that aims to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India. He said,

In our modeling and economic estimates, 400 thousand lives have already been saved through access to water provided via Jal Jeevan Mission. It’s huge. It saves a hundred million U.S. dollars. There are many villages where the mother or woman in the household wakes up at 3am to line up for a water pump. And now that’s all gone. Imagine, how many more productive hours a woman will be able to then use for care of the family, possibly for employment or more economically viable activity, versus waiting in line just for water that may or may not be safe because of the source.

Also Read: Meet The Campaign Ambassador – Ayushmann Khurrana

Mission Indradhanush: India’s Vaccination Efforts

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India introduced the Immunisation Programme in India in 1978 as the ‘Expanded Programme of Immunisation’ (EPI). In 1985, the programme was modified as the ‘Universal Immunisation Programme’ (UIP), as its reach was expanded beyond urban areas. UIP is one of the largest public health programmes targeting close to 2.67 crore newborns and 2.9 crore pregnant women annually. It is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions and is largely responsible for the reduction of vaccine-preventable under-5 mortality rate. Under UIP, immunisation is provided free of cost against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases. Where do India’s immunisation efforts stand? Dr Ofrin said,

The office of WHO in India has 2,600 personnel, and the majority of those are actually supporting the immunization efforts of the country. During COVID, we’ve had a dip in terms of coverage for children by around 15 per cent. There was a lot of catch-up being done. The recent estimates of WHO and UNICEF have shown that India has gone back and even higher pre-pandemic levels of coverage. The second dose of Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine has 93 per cent coverage.

DPT vaccine which protects children and adults against Diphtheria (D), Pertussis (P, also known as whooping cough) and Tetanus (T), has seen improved coverage. The coverage of the third dose of the DPT vaccine is in the 90 percent range. Dr Ofrin added,

There is also the new policy to introduce HPV vaccines, but more important is to leverage the current or just the recently concluded, Intensified Mission Indradhanush to move towards Measles elimination, and also to create a whole system of routine services which can cover all children everywhere, anywhere, anytime with the vaccines that are required because vaccines save lives. Vaccines are the most economically beneficial public health intervention that we have as of the moment to prevent disease, disability and deaths.

Also Read: Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana Sets The Agenda For The Tenth Season Of Banega Swasth India Campaign With ‘Dus Ka Dum’ 

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. 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 populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation 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 well-being, 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 pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual 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 become a Swasth or healthy India.

Highlights: Banega Swasth India Launches Season 10

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India’s Unsung Heroes

Women’s Health

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