New Delhi: On NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India 12-hour telethon, which was held on October 2 (Sunday), Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation (WHO) joined NDTV’s Prannoy Roy and Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan for a session on “Preventing Ill-health and not just curing it”. Dr Swaminathan shared the three key learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic – climate change, public health approach and good data and research for community engagement.
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Here are 10 things that Dr Swaminathan said:
- It is important to remember the teachings of Gandhi. The main lesson from the pandemic is climate change and it all boils down to what humans have done to the environment. We all should understand, our future, our lives, all are intertwined with the health of the environment. What humans have done is that they have just focused on humans alone. And they have destroyed both the land and marine environment.
- There is a need to focus on the environment much more as individuals and the government. We all should think about protecting the biodiversity, protecting various species, and not allowing anymore species to become extinct as each one has their own set of repercussions on the environment.
- The second big learning from the pandemic for me is that the vulnerable people always suffer the disproportionately in any loss. We are seeing this with the recent things like floods in Pakistan and the food scarcity that is happening in Africa. And this can happen to anyone of us and any country. It is important to focus on equity and help those who are left behind.
- The third big lesson is the’ Public Health’, the approach, investments and involving the community in any kind of response, having good data systems, in being able to act responsibly and following science is a must.
- We have learnt a lot from COVID pandemic in 2.5 years, but what we don’t know is how the virus will evolve in the coming years. The hope is that the Omicron and its sub-variants will be the predominant ones and slowly the human race acquires immunity from the same and severe consequences from the virus. Hopefully it will become like a common cold virus which won’t make us very sick. But the worst case scenario is when the virus mutates and is able to evade the immunity, which is built by the vaccine or the infection, in that case we will again have to go through the process of severe disease, deaths and developing newer vaccines.
- There are about 20-22 viral families that can cause the future pandemics like Pox virus, influenza virus, Coronavirus, new ebola outbreak, nipah, to name a few. We need to prepare a prototype vaccine candidate for such diseases, so that if in future something happens then we can quickly scale up the production. The goal is to shorten the period of developing a vaccine, this time with COVID, we did it in a year, which in itself was unprecedented, but next time, the hope is to do it in less than 3 months or 6 months time and for that we need funds and investments.
- Talking about the global response in the COVID times, vaccines have been the fantastic tool in the fight, but only if we had used them wisely in the first year when limited supply was available and had given to everyone who was ay high risk like elderly, frontline and the healthcare workers, we would have saved a lot more lives. According to the estimates, vaccine of COVID have saved 20 million lives and a few more million would have been possible, if we had global solidarity.
- Vaccines that are developed have high efficacy and safety. What vaccines do is that they prevent severe disease and fight against the viruses that are trying to evolve, each time they mutate and allow the virus to evade the antibody. There are people who have not taken the vaccine and haven’t fallen sick but that’s a matter of chance. If you are young and healthy the chances are you will be able to fight the infection but if you are old and have underline diseases like hypertension, cardiac or neurological disease, the chances are you will get sick. Now, death rate due to COVID is still hovering around 10,000/day. Right now it is causing much more disease compared to influenza. But the bright side is that we are recovering quickly from the disease now because of vaccines available. As per the data, over 13 billion people worldwide have taken the vaccine.
- India has done a great job in vaccinating people. It has vaccinated over a billion of people in a matter of 15-18 months. India started vaccination in 2021 with just the frontline and healthcare workers and gradually it was ramped up. During the delta wave many weren’t vaccinated and that’s why we saw the impact.
- Health and fitness is very important part of the life. Today, the India population has a very high burden of non-communicable diseases, which is starting at an earlier age and that is because of many factors like our diet, lifestyle, physical activity etc. What we all should aim to do is be as healthy as possible and follow a healthy lifestyle by following a healthy diet, doing physical exercise, avoid tabasco and alcohol etc. All this boost your natural immunity and help fight infection and viruses that you face on a day-to-day basis.
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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 become a Swasth or healthy India.