October 2010


By Sangita Ghosh De

‘Healthy mother, healthy child’ seems to be becoming a reality

Coverage Evaluation Survey 2009 (CES-2009) conducted between November 2009 and January 2010 by UNICEF showed that important parameters of maternal health, such as institutional delivery, safe delivery by skilled birth attendants and mothers undergoing three or more ante-natal check-ups, have increased impressively from the time of national family health survey-III (NFHS-III) conducted during 2005-06.

Institutional deliveries increased from 40.7% to 72.9%, safe deliveries by skilled birth attendants from 48.2% to 76% and number of mothers who having three or more ante-natal check-ups from 50.7% to 68.7%.

States often perceived to be backward also showed massive growth. Institutional deliveries increased from 29.7% to 81% in Madhya Pradesh, 38.8% to 75.5% in Orissa, 32.2% to 70.4% in Rajasthan, 22% to 48.3% in Bihar, 15.7% to 44.9% in Chhattisgarh and 22% to 62.1% in Uttar Pradesh.

Child health indicators also improved considerably from NFHS-III. The percentage of children with diarrhoea in the last two weeks who received ORS increased from 26 to 53.6. Similarly, 82.6% children with acute respiratory infections were given advice or treatment in CES 2009 as compared to 69% in NFHS III. The percentage of children breast fed within an hour of delivery increased from 24.5 to 33.5. Full immunisation coverage at the national level too jumped from 43.5% to 61%. Of the 23 states that have shown improvement in this area, the coverage grew by 20-30% in nine, while it grew by 10-20% in six states. Large states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Bihar, Assam, Karnataka and Maharashtra shown improvement in full immunisation coverage by more than 15%.

Collaboration for Research

Accenture and ICRI enter strategic partnership, launch programme in Pharmacovigilance

Accenture and the Institute of Clinical Research in India (ICRI) had announced jointly to develop a Pharmacovigilance and clinical research programme customised to meet the growing industry requirements of the thriving sector.

Titled as ‘Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Research and Pharmacovigilance,’ the programme curriculum will span over a period of 6 to 12 months or an aggregate of 360 hours. The content of the course covers four essential modules: Basics of Clinical research, Pharmacology, Pharmacovigilance and Regulations; Case Processing; Aggregate Report; Risk Management in Pharmacovigilance & Signal Detection.

Accenture will lend its expertise in terms of training the trainer, curriculum content development, curriculum execution and delivery through periodical guest lectures, periodic certification and re-assessment of trainers based on predefined standards to ensure consistent quality of training and up gradation of course content as per industry requirements.

Policy Watch

National Program For Prevention and Control of Deafness launched

National Program for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD) was launched in Maharashtra by Suresh H Shetty, Minister of Public Health and Family Welfare, Government of Maharshtra.

In his inaugural speech, the minister said that Government of India has made a positive step by initiating National Program for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD). The problems caused by deafness in the community cannot be ignored. In fact there are over 25,000 children born deaf every year, whereas 75% of the problem is solved if deafness can be prevented. Treatment of deafness is expensive in terms of diagnosis, fitment of hearing aids and cochlear implant. However it is important to start the program by reaching out to villages of 8 districts of Maharashtra. Gradually all the other  districts of Maharashtra can be covered.

Primary Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, District Hospitals and Medical Colleges in the state of Maharashtra would be equipped to initiate National Program for Prevention and Control of Deafness (NPPCD). Audiologists and Speech Pathologists would be appointed on contract basis in the district hospitals to provide secondary and tertiary care for the identified deaf in the community.

In next five years 500 medical colleges needs to be set up, MCI to Government

There is an urgent need for atleast 500 medical colleges in India and that too in the next five years, urged the Medical Council of India (MCI) and these new medical colleges can be established now with a minimum requirement of only 10 acres of land and admitting more than 250 students instead of the earlier regulation of minimum 25 acres of land and admission of 200 students every year.

According to Shiv Kumar Sarin, Chairperson , MCI, the council has urged the government to look into the matter of setting up medical colleges instead of only leaving it to the private sector to come up with proposals. The council also recommends of changing the student to bed ratio in collegiate hospitals to 1:5 from 1:8 and for smaller cities the hospital should be built within 5 km radius of the college.

As of now, there are 35,000 medical seats and 314 medical colleges and if the proposed regulations are followed, 8,000-10,000 more medical graduates would added annually.

CII-GOI join hands for skilled workers in healthcare

To increase the number of skilled workers in healthcare, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) is working with the health department to train school dropouts to work in hospitals and for homecare.

According to the newhealthcare panel of the new project there are not enough trained people to work in hospitals as ward boys or offer care at people’s homes. But after a six-month course along with an internship at a hospital, the new curriculum can also train them to draw blood samples. The CII would work with the government to upgrade PHCs under private-public partnership models.

The new course will also look into the certification for those working in fitness, beauty, rejuvenation, nutrition and counselling as they are important to attract tourists. Moreover, services in areas like rehabilitation therapy and counseling would also be included to meet the local requirements.

Health Research

Indian household spends 7% of total expenditure on healthcare

Indian households spends a disproportionate share of their consumption expenditure on health. Public spending on health is very low, stagnant at about 1% of GDP, putting India among the bottom 20% of countries, according to the India Health Report 2010 by CII and Indicus Analytics.

The study said the households spend an average of 7% of their total expenditure on medicine and healthcare. Private health spending accounts for more than 80% of all health spending in India and one of the highest proportions of private spending anywhere in the world, the study depicted.

Per capita costs have almost doubled in the last decade, across both in-patient and out-patient care. In rural areas, per capita out-patient cost increased from Rs 11 to Rs 20, while urban areas showed an increase from Rs 14 to Rs 28, the report said.

The average expenditure incurred for one case of hospitalisation is about Rs 7,182 with government hospitals stand at about Rs 3,454 and private at Rs 8,828. Even the poorest 20% in rural areas spend about Rs 4,291 on one hospitalisation case, the study said.

Corporate Social Responsibility

Philips to address the need of aging populations

Philips has declared its commitment to helping address the healthcare needs of aging populations. In his speech entitled ‘Towards Next Generation Home Healthcare’, delivered at the 2010 Nikkei-Philips Symposium, Erik Sande, General Manager, Philips Home Monitoring, reconfirmed the decision on behalf of the corporate major. The company through its home healthcare division stressed the need for sustainable, ‘next generation’ solutions that are reliable, easy-to-use and address the issue of how to help the elderly and chronically ill to live full and rewarding lives.

The corporate has also come out with its outlined strategic ‘Vision 2015′ plan to further strengthen Philips’ leadership in the domain of health and well-being focused on growth and strengthening leadership.

Hospital Information System

Siemens launches Soarian MedSuite HIS for the first time in India

Siemens has recently announced the launch of  ‘Soarian MedSuite’ hospital information system (HIS) for the first time in India. The implementation of this system has been successfully completed at SL Raheja Hospital in Mumbai, also a Fortis Healthcare associate.

Soarian MedSuite helps hospitals to provide better patient care and drive clinical excellence by effectively integrating various processes. It also enables hospitals worldwide increase efficiency by arming caregivers with integrated tools to manage administrative, clinical and financial processes. The solution yields immediate access to patient data across the spectrum of care.

Medsynaptic conferred with Emerge Award by NASSCOM

NASSCOM has announced Medsynaptic, a pioneering and leading Teleradiology and PACS company from India, as one of the top 10 Information Technology startups for 2010 at the Delhi edition of the NASSCOM EMERGOUT Conclave 2010. The winners, chosen from a total of 236 initial applicants, include companies that provide a range of IT services covering healthcare, education and training, banking, travel and social networking.

NASSCOM through its EMERGE 50 initiative has identified 50 Emerging companies which are redefining the benchmark of excellence for the next generation of SMEs. The League of 10, have been selected from these shortlisted companies. The purpose of this initiative is to identify and recognise the great potential companies in the making, who can be treated as role models and inspiration to others.

Corporate Partnership

Aurigene and Pcovery merges for anti-fungal drug discovery

Aurigene Discovery Technologies Ltd, a collaborative drug discovery company has signed a drug discovery deal with Danish start-up Pcovery, which designs and develops original drugs and agrochemicals.

Under the terms of this agreement, the companies will work collaboratively to progress early hits available with Pcovery through the drug discovery cycle up to IND submission for anti-fungal indications.

Aurigene will support Pcovery through its structure based discovery approaches and medicinal chemistry expertise to advance the early hits from Pcovery. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

NIH launches research into human immune responses

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a nationwide IT-supported research initiative using human studies to define changes in the human immune system in response to infection or to vaccination.

The researchers will take advantage of technological developments and advances in creating databases and developing mathematical models to identify and analyse the complex changes in immune profiles. The funding is a total of US$100 million over five years will come from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the NIH and support for the first year of the initiative will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Investigators will analyse samples from well-characterised groups, including children, the elderly, and people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus. These groups represent diverse populations with respect to age, genetics, gender and ethnicity. The research teams will examine immune system elements of these populations before and after exposure to naturally acquired infections or to vaccines or vaccine components.

Merger & Acquisition

Transasia acquires a majority stake in IVAX

Transasia Bio-Medicals through its fully owned German subsidiary, Erba Diagnostics Mannheim GmbH has acquired a majority stake in US based company IVAX Diagnostics.

IVAX is a fully integrated In-Vitro diagnostics company that develops, manufactures and distributes in the US and internationally, proprietary diagnostic reagents, test kits and instrumentation, for Autoimmune and Infectious diseases.

The synergy thus developed will help Transasia to offer unique Immunodiagnostic innovations in its products, procedures and in the development of Integrated Instrument and Reagent systems for both Autoimmune and Infectious Disease and will help IVAX to increase its reach in the Indian market.


Zargis for remote stethoscope solution

Zargis Medical has signed an agreement with the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) providing for the delivery and testing of Zargis’ telemedicine stethoscope system,  Zargis TeleSteth.

OTN provides access to care for patients in every hospital in Ontario and the healthcare centres across the province. Through the agreement, a wide-scale implementation within OTN’s network of more than 1,100 clinical sites have been anticipated. TeleSteth helps to extend the sound of auscultation to situations and environments where face-to-face encounters are not always convenient or feasible that allows healthcare professionals to share heart, lung and airway sounds with colleagues located across the globe using the Internet or a private network in real-time or store-and-forward mode.

Research Update

Maternal deaths fall 34%, reports WHO

Deaths from complications during pregnancy and childbirth in India have fallen by a third in the past two decades but 1,000 women still die needlessly every day, the World Health Organisation said recently.

Women in poorer countries are 36 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than those in the rich nations, the WHO said, announcing maternal mortality figures that remain far above the United Nations’ flagship targets.

For maternal mortality rates to hit the UN target, there would need to be an annual decline in deaths of 5.5% from now until 2015. The rate of decline since 1990, when there were 546,000 pregnancy-related deaths, was 2.3%.

The four major causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding after childbirth, infections,  hypertensive disorders and unsafe abortions, according to the WHO figures.

Google launches Health Speaks in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili

Google has launched ‘Health Speaks’ to increase the amount of online health information in languages other than English to establish the fact that language should not be the barrier to access to health information for the local communities.

Health Speaks will begin with pilot projects in Arabic, Hindi and Swahili. Bilingual volunteers are encouraged to translate health-related Wikipedia (EN) articles into one of these three languages, using the Health Speaks website and Google Translato Toolkit. The next step will be to consider expanding into other languages or using content from other sources.

Product Watch

Konica Minolta develops wireless cassette-sized digital radiography system

Konica Minolta Medical  has launched a lightweight, wireless and cassette-sized digital radiography system. The detector has a dimensions of a film cassette so it will fit in an existing wall-stand or table bucky tray without modifications.  The new cassette-sized digital radiography system will consistently provide high quality diagnostic images and is lighter than 3 kgs, incorporates a unique battery design that provides extended battery life and very short charge cycle.

Now IITs to Offer MBBS Course

IITs will now offer MBBS degree. In due course of time it will also offer post graduation in medicine and its allied courses. The decision was taken in a recent meeting of the IIT Council headed by Kapil Sibal, Union Minister, Ministry of Human Resource Development, while the Ministry of Health has opposed the decision. To introduce the new courses, the Institute of Technologies Act will also be amended, decided the council.

Only IIT Kharagpur will be setting up a medical school at the first phase. It had also set up the School of Medical Sciences and Technology (SMST), earlier in the year of 2000 but has been struggling since its inception to retain students. But other IITs are also already pursuing interdisciplinary research study in the area of medical sciences. When IIT has been trying to establish interdisciplinary research  as one of the key focus areas, it was alleged that almost 50% of the MBBS graduates who joined the course left MMST mid-way as the school failed to attract doctors as faculty.

The health ministry has given its negative remarks stating reasons that it is better for the engineering schools to start individual courses on health information technology or biomedical engineering and e-health rather than introducing a full fledged MBBS course.  But IIT Council is trying to focus on its long-standing proposal to enter into medical education to promote interdisciplinary research involving medicine and engineering together. There are 15 IITs at present, located in Bhubaneswar, Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi, Gandhinagar, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras (Chennai), Mandi, Patna, Punjab, Rajasthan and Roorkee.  The proposed amendments will deal with two distinct ways to include MBBS into its discipline. For courses rewarding a degree for the practice of medicine, permission for clearance will be taken from the Medical Council of India (MCI). But for courses that are more of interdisciplinary research and do not award a degree in the practice of medicine, need not to go for any approval from MCI or any of the medical education regulators.

According to Sibal, the council is in the process to make sure that wherever the instruction leads to a degree relating to any branch of medicine (including MBBS), then of course clearances from MCI under the Act will have to be taken. The council can also admit up to 25% foreign students at the post graduate level on a “supernumerary basis without affecting the present admission norms for Indian students”.

Further to this, the IIT Council has declared that it would be collaborating among IITs and also interested in partnering with other institutions in the field of greater interdisciplinary research with other institutions as well. A permanent standing committee under R A Mashelkar, former head of Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been set up to look further into the matter.

The committee has also been enabled, along with IIT council, to take decisions on global collaborations, where IITs would set up centres for policy studies to serve as an advisory forum for policy formulation and conduct research in strategic areas. The IITs which has been facing faculty crunch for a long time will now also be able to recruit faculty from abroad. The council has given a go ahead to the IITs to recruit foreign nationals, with a maximum limit of 10% of permanent faculty.

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